The writing’s been on the wall for a while, but it’s finally been confirmed: Daniel Ricciardo will be leaving McLaren at the end of the 2022 Formula 1 season. But where will he end up in 2023?
Danny Ric shared a candid video on social media earlier this morning, describing his departure as “bittersweet” and confirming that he will see out the rest of the season with the team.
In the carefully-worded clip, the 33-year-old Australian doesn’t rule out racing in F1 next year, saying “what lies ahead, I’m not sure yet… The sport – I still love it, this hasn’t affected any of that. I still have that fire in me… This isn’t it for me.”
He also doesn’t say it but this all but confirms that fellow Aussie and F2 champ Oscar Piastri will be taking his seat at McLaren – and that McLaren will be paying out Ricciardo upwards of AU$35 million to release him from his contract.
Fans and friends alike have been quick to commiserate and cheer on the eight-time Grand Prix winner – particularly his fellow athletes. Danish IndyCar driver Christian Lundgaard commented on Instagram “Big opportunities ahead bud! Go finish this thing off on a high,” while Australian professional enduro mountain biker Sam Hill said “You’re a legend mate… It’s never easy with the business side of being an athlete.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris was especially magnanimous. “What a ride… From that moment in Monza, to the laughs we’ve had out of the car, it’s been a joy working with you these last two years. Whatever’s next I wish you all the best, let’s have a mega next few months,” the young Brit Tweeted.
WATCH Daniel Ricciardo’s announcement he’s leaving McLaren below.
Despite returning to his race-winning ways in 2021 during his first season with McLaren with a spectacular win at the Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo has been fairly comprehensively outperformed by Norris during his time at the famous F1 team.
13 races into the 2022 season and Ricciardo is sitting at 12th in the championship with 19 points, while Norris is 7th in the championship with 76 points. McLaren CEO Zak Brown has been surprisingly vocal with his disappointment with Ricciardo’s performance, so it’s not a huge surprise they’re getting rid of him.
The real question is this: what’s next for ‘The Honey Badger’? Where will Daniel Ricciardo drive in 2023? These are the most likely outcomes.
In our view, there’s a good chance Ricciardo might end up at his old team, Alpine (formerly Renault). Ricciardo raced for the French team for two years after leaving Red Bull and before joining McLaren – a move that left a bitter taste in both former Renault F1 team managing director Cyril Abiteboul and Renault Group boss Luca de Meo’s mouths.
But Abiteboul’s no longer in charge at Alpine (former Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer is) and Alpine has a huge problem on their hands thanks to Fernando Alonso’s defection to Aston Martin and losing Piastri, their brightest young star, to McLaren.
It wouldn’t be the most comfortable of arrangements, Ricciardo returning to Alpine with his tail between his legs, but it’s arguably the best outcome for Ricciardo. Alpine has shown significant signs of momentum over the last two years, with Esteban Ocon winning the Hungarian Grand Prix last year – the Frenchman’s first ever Grand Prix win and the team’s first win as Alpine plus their first since 2008.
If both Danny Ric and Alpine can let bygones be bygones, it could actually work rather well. Indeed, it could give both the driver and team renewed vigour: to be out for revenge against McLaren.
Haas or Williams
Alternatively, Ricciardo might find himself at one of the two back-marker teams: Haas or Williams. Alpine’s a more competitive team, but if Ricciardo’s keen to stay in F1, he’ll have to take whatever he can get.
ESPN reports that Haas team principal Guenther Steiner, who has become a cult hero for his antics on Netflix documentary series Drive To Survive, contacted Ricciardo before the mid-season break – a surprising twist.
Danish driver Kevin Magnussen is contracted with Haas on a multi-year deal (after having left the team at the end of 2020) but Mick Schumacher’s current deal expires at the end of 2022, meaning there could be space for Ricciardo at the American team.
Schumacher, despite his solid-gold surname and impressive junior career, has had a fairly lacklustre record in F1 over the last two years. He comprehensively outperformed his teammate Nikita Mazepin during his maiden season last year but has been rather shown up by Magnussen this year.
There’s also likely to be a spot opening up at Williams alongside fellow Red Bull castaway Alex Albon, with pay driver Nicholas Latifi all but certain to leave the team with his contract expiring at the end of 2022 as well.
The issue is that neither Haas nor Williams are likely to be able to accommodate for Ricciardo’s mind-boggling wage – the Aussie currently earns an AU$20.8 million annual salary, while Schumacher is paid less than $2 million, news.com.au explains. So unless Danny Ric is willing to take a substantial pay cut, this might not work.
Takes a year off… And then try Mercedes?
It’s also entirely possible that Ricciardo simply sits out F1 in 2023. He wouldn’t be the first driver to do so – Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen did so last year, Esteban Ocon did in 2019, and Fernando Alonso has had multiple spells away from the sport. A ‘rebuilding year’ of sorts might be just what Ricciardo needs, actually.
A very outside chance might see Ricciardo join Mercedes in 2024. Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s contract with the team expires at the end of 2023 – maybe, after 16 years in the sport (and seemingly being outperformed by new teammate George Russell), the GOAT might call it quits?
It’s a very unlikely outcome, seeing as there are plenty of Mercedes-contracted drivers waiting in the wings for Mercedes to pick from. Still, the combination of a veteran #2 driver supporting a talented young #1 driver could work for the Silver Arrows – seems to be working quite well for Red Bull with Sergio Pérez and Max Verstappen…
Ricciardo, a notorious Americaonphile, might instead ditch F1 entirely and head to Indycar, America’s biggest open-wheel car racing series – either temporarily or permanently.
He wouldn’t be the first F1 driver in recent years to make the switch. Former Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who left F1 after a shocking crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, has found much more success in the format than he ever did in F1.
Other former F1 drivers currently active in Indycar include Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcus Ericsson and Takuma Sato.
Maybe he could pull an Alonso, spend a bit of time in Indycar and then make an F1 return? Stranger things have happened. Or maybe even follow Kimi Räikkönen’s lead and do some NASCAR? We’ll just have to wait and see…