2023 looks set to be a strange year for Formula 1 viewers, with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo all but confirmed to not be on the grid next season.
Vettel is, of course, retiring from the championship at the end of the season; however, Ricciardo’s future was still unknown heading into last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
He was believed to be an outsider for Mick Schumacher’s Haas seat, but rumours started to circulate that he was in “advanced” talks with Mercedes about becoming their reserve driver next season.
These rumours appeared to have some truth to them, especially after it was announced prior to FP3 at Suzuka that Nyck de Vries would be racing for AlphaTauri next season.
When it was initially announced that he’d be leaving McLaren, many tipped the Aussie to make a return to Enstone, who were formerly the base of Renault, who are now known as Alpine.
Those talks quickly quietened, as it became clear that Pierre Gasly was the preferred choice for Fernando Alonso’s seat.
“I knew they were talking for a while and I knew they were very interested in Pierre,” Ricciardo said.
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer actually confirmed whilst announcing Gasly for 2023 that they had spoken with Ricciardo, but that they opted for the Frenchman due to him being “fast and young”.
“At the beginning we discussed with a few drivers, including Daniel, and Pierre meets the criteria that I had to a tee – he’s experienced, fast and young,” said Szafnauer.
With a reserve role for 2023 the only option for the 33-year-old in Formula 1, he’s already setting his sights on a return to a full-time F1 seat in 2024.
Many have discussed how good it would be to see the Australian driver give another series a go; however, the Honey Badger has revealed that this isn’t in his plans just yet.
Ricciardo isn’t “mentally” ready to give up on a career in F1, despite knowing he “won’t be on the grid in 2023”.
“I think the reality is now I won’t be on the grid in 2023,” he said.
“I think it’s now just trying to set up for ’24. It’s kind of like hitting pause for a little bit.
“As fun or cool as it sounds to compete in something else, the truth is that mentally, I’m not there yet.”
Considering how badly his career has gone since leaving Red Bull at the end of 2018, the Aussie’s agent, Nick Thimm, has argued that his client has simply been dealt a “bad hand”.
This comes after the outgoing McLaren driver came under criticism for having an ‘ego’, for which has seen him make rushed decisions since leaving the soon-to-be Constructors’ Champions.
“None of this is about ego, unachievable demands, or a sudden lack of opportunity,” Thimm said.
“This is about a man who was dealt a bad hand, now finding the right next opportunity. Uncovering a new project where he can work with a team that embraces his unique set of skills.
“It’s a different approach yes, but it’s also a new day for the sport. He’s not done. And as we saw this season, anything can happen.”