Inside Line: Ricciardo could race for Alpine free of charge

Daniel Ricciardo renault alpine return?

McLaren got their way, Daniel Ricciardo agreed a deal that will see him cut his contract a year short for Zak Brown’s future plans which clearly do not include the underperforming Australian.

Brown admitted after the announcement was made: “We’ve had to write a big cheque, which is fine because that’s the deal that we cut.”

That cheque is about $25-million according to most credible reports, which is basically what McLaren were forking out next year for Ricciardo. Hence a similar amount will have been the sweetner that made the deal amicable.

At 33, Ricciardo is still up for F1 and has been vocal on social media explaining how his heart is still it; apparently turning down a McLaren offer to race Indycar in the process. F1 is where he wants to be.

Thus Alpine, who appear to have been shafted by Oscar Piastri with defection to McLaren, have an empty seat alongside Esteban Ocon, since Fernando Alonso lured himself to Aston Martin.

Not a bad thing as RIC-OCO did a decent job for Renault (now Alpine) despite Cyril Abiteboul and of course, the McLaren funded $25-million injection will make it zero cost for Alpine to take on their former driver.

One imagines they will jump to the chance as will Ricciardo with his case full of Zak’s money to sweeten the prospect despite his struggles on track of late, the reason for his premature departure from McLaren.

If they can work around that elephant in the room, namely the driver’s appalling form relative to Lando Norris, Ricciardo to Alpine headlines should be spawning soon.

Alpine could end up winning big with Dan despite being ditched by a 21-year-old

ricciardo ocon

Not bad for Alpine if you also throw into that the money Piastri, his minders and/or McLaren have to fork out to wrench Piastri out of his contract, considering the French outfit spent significantly to get the highly-rated 21-year-old Aussie to the front door of F1.

Expect money to flow from McLaren to Alpine for this one to go away amicably, which in the end could mean that Piastri will have to take what Brown and his men offer him financially to be in their team.

Which one could imagine being something like “shut up Oscar and drive the car, we blew the budget to get Dan out of it for you, now you drive for free!”

With new teammate Lando Norris going: “How do I destroy this guy too?” Interesting times lie ahead for the immensely hyped 2023 F1 rookie Piastri.

As for Ricciardo, the McLaren settlement offers him a chance to stay in the sport ‘free-of-charge’ for whoever hires him and make a case to remain with Alpine beyond 2023. That’s where I would put my money.

Alternatives for Ricciardo exist but they are bleak. Williams could be an option, but in their current state that would be several steps backwards or if a team like Haas or Alfa Romeo decide to make a change.

But no option is better than Alpine for him, a works team he knows to prove that McLaren made a mistake.