Although Daniel Ricciardo’s options of being on the 2023 Formula 1 grid grow slimmer weekly the McLaren driver is adamant that Plan A is to be back, and has six races left to state his case for a seat or watch on TV like the rest of us.
The 2022 Singapore Grand Prix is Ricciardo’s sixth last race in the Orange of McLaren, and maybe even his final one (for now) in F1 as options run out for the popular Australian whose career has hit an all-time low since he was bought out of his contract to make way for rookie Oscar Piastri at Woking.
Speaking to F1.com, Ricciardo said of his future: “Of course, Plan A would be to be on the grid, but nothing’s changed. Let’s say I don’t want to just jump at the first seat available. I know the landscape probably changes as well end of next year with contracts and whatever so I’m just… I don’t want to say remaining patient, but just remaining open.
“My [management] team is talking with, I want to say, pretty much everyone, or they’re having conversations, so we’re just trying to put it all together and figure out what makes the most sense… I also don’t want to just look at the next 12 months and not look at the next 24.”
With apparently few eager takers for his services in F1 he has considered the reserve option with a big team, he acknowledged: “It’s certainly something that’s realistic, yeah.”
Of the teams with seats for next year, Williams have ousted Nicholas Latifi and will be looking for a replacement to team up with Alex Albon who will remain with the team. Alpine are the other team that may save his career, formerly Renault where the Australian raced before he moved to McLaren, who are looking for a teammate to Esteban Ocon. And maybe Haas…
Ricciardo I’m solely focused on F1 and we’ll see
“I would say that’s the two realistic options,” acknowledged Ricciardo. “It’s not to be anywhere else. I love other disciplines of motorsport but I don’t see myself there. At least, I feel as though I jump into something like that and then it closes the door in F1. It kind of feels like I checked out and I haven’t.
Ricciardo sacrificed his drive with proven winners Red Bull for a big buck move to Renault in 2019, a spell that did little for his career but certainly did not pummel it, so much so that McLaren also signed a big cheque of expectation. But that was the beginning of the end as compared to Lando Norris, Ricciardo has not been good.
Options for him now are back-of-the-grid F1 teams, an unfamiliar reality he is aware of: “These are all things I’m weighing up… What fighting at the front does, when you’ve had that taste as well, it’s real, you know, and that’s ultimately where I want to be, so I guess I don’t want to just [go from] race to race.
“I want to race with a true belief and understanding that I can be back on the podium, ultimately,” ventured Ricciardo whose last victory was at Monza last year.
I’m at peace with whatever’s going to happen in 2023
If nothing comes up, Ricciardo seems content with the prospect: “With next year, if I’m not to be racing [in F1], then I feel like there could be a blessing in all that. I mean, it could make me fricking start foaming at the mouth, wanting to get back. So that’s why I’m pumped to be on the grid again – but I’m also seeing positives if that’s not the case.
“So that’s why [I’m] at peace with whatever’s going to happen in 2023, because I feel like everything will happen for a reason and all these things will make sense. Having a few weeks off was good to get some headspace, clarity, all those things,” added Ricciardo.
This Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix will be the 33-year-old’s 227th start in the top flight; he has eight Grand Prix victories to his name – all but one with Red Bull.