The second half of the 2022 Formula one season was full of surprises in the driver market. The shock announcement by Sebastian vetted he was retiring despite being contracted to drive in 2023 by Aston Martin set off an unexpected chain of events. However, the subsequent move by Fernando Alonso from Alpine and the associated efforts by teams to back fit their vacant seats had no effect on one of the biggest driver stories of the season.
Daniel Ricciardo is out of Formula One as he claims, ‘for the time being’, yet how this matter of affairs came about is bemusing for some. Apart from the four world champions on the grid in 2022, Daniel Riccardo with his 8 career F1 wins is second only to Valterri Bottas with 10 which all came during his 5 years in a comment Mercedes car.
Ricciardo failure at McLaren spectacular
Ricciardo’s failure at McLaren since his relatively successful two seasons at Renault has been spectacular. Lando Norris scored more points than any of the F1 drivers outside those who drive for the top 3 teams racking up 122 points. By comparison his Audssdie team mate could manage just 37 over the course of the 22 race season.
During his tenure with the Woking based F1 team Ricciardo did score McLaren’s only win in a decade at the 2021 Italian GP, but this was not enough to stop CEO Zak Brown paying $12m to release the team Fromm the contract with their driver.
Despite both team bosses from Haas and Williams dropping huge hints they would be interested in signing Daniel for the 2023 season, the Australian driver decided to opt for what he calls “a sabbatical”.
F1 champ says Ricciardo comeback “very difficult”
Double F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes it will be “very difficult” for Ricciardo to make an F1 comeback.
“I left Formula 1 in 2001. I was two times world champion, and I had a chance to have a sabbatical year,” explained Hakkinen who
contrasts Ricciardo’s exit from the sport
“He is leaving Formula 1 unfortunately when he is kicked out.”
Hakkinen argues that Ricciardo’s hopes to return to F1 with a front running team are fanciful because he has no opportunity to demonstrate his poor form is over.
Rookies coming along thick and fast
“There’s a young generation, rookies coming to Formula 1: can you prove ‘I’m quicker than them’?
“I have to apologise, I sound so negative. But it’s a reality. And it’s a very challenging situation for him. But everybody I think in the paddock likes him. He’s a very nice person, with a great sense of humour. Fans like him. But unfortunately teams like McLaren, they want to have a winner.”
Hakkinen believes Ricciardo’s 8 F1 race wins will count for little when team bosses begin to consider their driver line up for 2024. The Finn believes they will remember the recent comparison Ricciardo has to McLaren team mate Lando Norris.
“One tenth, two tenths, I can live with that. But if you are more than that, then it’s not good for the development of the car.
“And if you are more than that behind your teammate, then that requires a different kind of development for the car. And this development is not good for the team.”
Other F1 drivers taking sabbaticals
Of course Formula One has two recent examples of top drivers taking sabbatical’s. Kimi Raikkonen left the sport for two years in 2009 and returned to race for Ferrari. Then there’s the legendary Fernando Alonso who left McLaren and the sport in 2018 and has returned delivering tremendous performances for the Alpine team.
“It’s easier for them because they chose to go away,” says Hakkinen. “They’re world champions. Very simple answer… It sounds horrible! I feel like I say such bad things here. It’s just a reality. This business here, you know? It just doesn’t give you mercy.”
There are 7 drivers whose contract’s are up at the end of 2023 and they are Lewis Hamilton, Zhou Guanyu, Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda, Nico Hulkenberg, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargent.
Ricciardo’s best hope of F1 return
For Ricciardo to fulfil his hopes of retiring to F1 with a front running teams only hope in fulfilling that ambition would be to replace Lewis Hamilton – which quite simply is not going to happen.
As difficult as it is for Ricciardo fans, Hakkinen’s assessment of an F1 return for the Aussie appears to be fair. Daniel’s only hope seems to be were the relationship between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to deteriorate to the point where Red Bull force the Mexican to leave the team.
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