Perhaps the worst kept secret in Formula 1 this season has now been made public. Daniel Ricciardo will leave McLaren at the end of 2022, cutting his 3-year contract a year short.
Ricciardo has had a difficult 2022 season so far, struggling to match his team-mate, Lando Norris, The 2022 regulations have produced very diffrerent cars to previous seasons, and Ricciardo has had some trouble adapting to this year’s McLaren MCL36.
Although McLaren and Ricciardo have worked hard together to solve the problems, it seems solutions have not been found quickly enough for the team, and after much discussion it has been agreed between McLaren and Ricciardo to terminate his contract a year early.
McLaren tweeted their announcement shortly before Ricciardo released his own video on Twitter, visibly emotional about the decision that had been made.
Daniel Ricciardo has been a firm favourite with fans and F1 insiders alike throughout his career. He has always had a smile and a joke to share with everyone and has thrown himself into his racing with all the enthusiam that could be expected of the jovial Aussie that he is. His future is therefore on everyone’s mind in the wake of this announcement.
The rumour mill suggests two major options for Ricciardo in 2023. Firstly, there is Alpine. With Fernando Alonso departing to Aston Martin, there is an Alpine seat available. Ricciardo drove for Alpine in its previous form as Renault before heading to McLaren, so he knows the team very well. Alpine are also locked in a fight with McLaren (Ricciardo’s current team) for 4th position in the Constructors’ Championship. A move back to Alpine might therefore not be a step backwards at all for the Aussie.
The second rumoured option is Haas. Currently the team has Kevin Magnussen under contract for next season, but Mick Schumacher’s contract is up at the end of 2022. If the American team chooses not to renew Schumacher’s contract, Ricciardo would be a very appealing option. He is an 8-time Grand Prix winner and the 5th most experienced driver currently on the grid. He has driven for 5 different F1 teams (HRT, Torro Rosso – now Alpha Tauri, Red Bull, Renault – now Alpine, and McLaren) over 11 and a bit seasons. His knowledge and experience would be hugely valuable to a developing team like Haas.
The other question that immediately comes up following this announcement is that of McLaren’s second driver for 2023. The mostly likely candidate seems to be 2021 Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri, who is perhaps the most sought-after junior driver in the F1 market at the moment.
Piastri was recently in the spotlight when Alpine announced that he would be driving for them in 2023. Piastri swiftly responded on Twitter in no uncertain terms that he would not be driving for Alpine next season, leading to the fairly obvious conclusion that he had reached an agreement elsewhere.
Ironically, Piastri is Australian (like Ricciardo) and is currently the reserve driver in F1 for both McLaren Alpine for the 2022 season.
However things work out for Ricciardo, his departure from McLaren has certainly shaken up the driver market for 2023. It raises questions about the futures of Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi, Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda, none of whom have been confirmed for next season.
We’re in the midst of the F1 driver silly season, and now that the second half of the racing calendar is getting underway with the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, we can expect more driver line-up announcements to happen in the fairly near future. All will be revealed soon.
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