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What next for Daniel Ricciardo?

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4 mins read
With Ricciardo all set to leave McLaren, we look at the possible destinations for the Australian driver and what the future might hold of him.

The writing is clearly on the wall. It’s bold, it’s loud, and it’s been there for a while.

As per sources close to Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren have told the Australian that they will pay him out of his current McLaren contract at the end of the ongoing season to replace him with Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri. 

Reports suggest McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl informed Ricciardo of the decision after the Hungarian Grand Prix, and that the team are currently working on a settlement to see Ricciardo exit his contract before 2023.

With Ricciardo all set to leave McLaren, in this article I look at the possible destinations for the Australian driver and what the future may hold for him.

Alpine

The most obvious choice for Daniel Ricciardo at the moment is returning to the team he left to move to McLaren.

Ricciardo left Red Bull at the end of 2019 to join Renault (now rebranded to Alpine). After two relatively successful seasons, he made the move to McLaren, replacing Carlos Sainz, who had left for Ferrari. 

Since then, even though Ricciardo has given McLaren their only win since 2012, his time with them has been underwhelming to say the least. His struggles have been pretty clear, and with McLaren all set to release the Australian, a return to the French team is his best option. 

Alpine and team boss Otmar Szafnauer have both spoken about the possibility of Ricciardo returning to Alpine, and a straight swap might just be the best thing for Ricciardo at the moment. His performances haven’t been up to the level everyone expects from the eight-time Grand Prix winner; a change of environment might just be the thing Ricciardo and his career need at the moment. Also, Alpine have been on an upward trajectory since 2019 and are clearly better placed than McLaren at the moment. 

The 2022 regulation changes have certainly been kind to Alpine, and the French team certainly look like they could be moving up the grid in the upcoming seasons. The McLaren mess just might be a blessing in disguise for the Australian.

McLaren, too, will be pushing for Ricciardo to take the Alpine seat, for if he does take it, the Woking-based team would have to pay less than what they would have to pay if Ricciardo were to be asked to leave his McLaren seat and didn’t find another one.

Williams

Another open seat on the grid is the one beside Alexander Albon at Williams. Albon was recently given an extension at Williams, but his current driving partner Nicholas Latifi has his contract ending at the end of the current year, and it is unlikely that Williams will continue with the Canadian given his performances over the last few seasons. Williams were originally expected to go for Piastri if Fernando Alonso stayed with the Enstone-based team. Alpine were ready to loan out Piastri to Williams, but the Piastri camp wasn’t keen on moving to a team lower down the grid. 

Williams have a bunch of drivers lined up for that second seat in 2023 and beyond, which include the likes of Nyck de Vries, Logan Sargeant and now Daniel Ricciardo. Although a move to Williams would be a step backwards from McLaren, it could also be the ideal place for Ricciardo and his career now.

The McLaren stint has obviously dented Ricciardo’s confidence, and even though the Williams car won’t help him fight for wins, podiums or even points regularly, his talent could see him outperform a slow car which could in turn uplift his confidence. 

Haas

Another option for Ricciardo is Haas. While Haas have Kevin Magnussen under contract for the upcoming season, his partner Mick Schumacher‘s contract runs out at the end of the current season. 

While the second seat at Haas is generally decided by Ferrari, who have a strong partnership with Haas and even supply them with their engines, switching from Schumacher to Ricciardo would certainly be an upgrade for the American team. Ricciardo’s experience along with Haas’ upward movement in the grid following the regulations changes would be perfect for the team as they look to become a strong midfield team. 

Even though it seems like a long shot, and Haas will for all probability stick with the Ferrari academy driver Schumacher, the seat being not confirmed does keep an option open for Ricciardo. 

AlphaTauri

Now this is really a long shot, but Ricciardo did use to be a Red Bull academy driver; a return to the Red Bull set up, therefore, can’t be totally ruled out.

While AlphaTauri do have Pierre Gasly locked in, his young Japanese partner Yuki Tsunoda has his contract running out at the end of the current year. Now, the issue here is that AlphaTauri are generally the team who give young Red Bull academy drivers a platform to get to the Red Bull team, so having Ricciardo in that seat would make no sense. On top of that, Tsunoda hasn’t really disappointed, and it is more or less confirmed that the Faenza-based team will continue with the same pairing for a third consecutive year. 

Adieu Formula One?

While Ricciardo definitely has a lot of years left in him and has stated before that he doesn’t plan to leave the sport, leaving the sport could actually be reality for the Australian.

Should Alpine find a driver other than Ricciardo to replace Alonso and the other seats in the grid also get filled up, Ricciardo would have to walk away from the sport. While it may not be a permanent move, he may have to take a couple of years off before returning. 

Given how taxing the world of Formula One is, a few years off from the sport could rejuvenate the Australian, but if this is the last we see of Ricciardo, it will certainly be an underwhelming exit for one of the sports’ most jovial and loved drivers. 

Other options for Ricciardo are IndyCar and NASCAR, and given how much Ricciardo enjoys motor-racing in general, a move to either could be on the cards should there be no place in Formula One for him. 

Wherever Ricciardo does end up going, his is one of the most intriguing storylines of the summer break and one that will continue to put out multiple headlines in the coming days. 

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