Daniel Ricciardo aiming to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2024

Daniel Ricciardo will start the Japanese Grand Prix from P11 following a tight Q2 elimination.

Daniel Ricciardo said the words that thousands of fans have been dreading since his McLaren boot, after the Honey Badger announced after qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix that he won’t be on the 2023 grid.

Whilst the announcement was somewhat expected, it’s still disappointed a large portion of the F1 community, given that the Aussie on his day is still one of the strongest drivers on the grid.

He’s by no means at an age either that would see him question retirement from Formula 1 altogether, with the Perth-born driver being only 33-years-old.

In actual fact, he’s currently enjoying the brightest spell of his season so far, with his fifth-place finish at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix seemingly having given the McLaren driver a much-needed boost.

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Ricciardo was agonisingly eliminated from qualifying in Q2 by an unbelievably minuscule 0.003 seconds, with the retiring Sebastian Vettel hanging onto the final Q3 spot by the skin of his teeth.

Whilst Vettel is retiring and most likely won’t be seen in the paddock too often, Ricciardo is rumoured to actually be remaining amongst the garages next season.

According to several reports, Ricciardo is in “advanced” talks about becoming Mercedes’ new reserve driver next season, following their current reserve Nyck de Vries being announced as an AlphaTauri driver for 2023.

Whilst a move to Mercedes would see Ricciardo back working for a frontrunning team, ex-F1 driver Jenson Button, has questioned if it’s the right decision by the Australian, who is targeting a full-time return in 2024.

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“Being a third driver for someone of his calibre, it’s a very, very strange situation he’s found himself in,” Button said on Sky Sports F1.

“But the results haven’t been there this year, so I can completely understand the change of drivers next year at McLaren.

“I don’t know what he would get out of being a third driver, that’s the thing.

“He’s not a young driver, so he can’t drive the car next year in race weekends [in free practice], it has to be a young driver. So he’s not really going to get anything out of it.”

It remains to be seen why Ricciardo has chosen to accept a reserve role at Mercedes over others like Red Bull, given that neither George Russell nor Sir Lewis Hamilton are likely to leave the Silver Arrows anytime soon.

Hamilton only revealed in the build-up to this weekend that he’s still got plenty of years left in him, with the seven-time World Champion virtually confirming that he’ll be extending his contract beyond 2023.

It means that if Ricciardo wants to return to a full-time seat in 2024, he’ll have to leave Mercedes after just a season as their reserve driver, should the deal get across the line.

Button thinks Ricciardo will need to be talking to teams about a possible seat in 2024 as soon as possible, as otherwise he’ll be “forgotten”.

“I guess he’ll probably think ‘Well, Lewis might retire and then I’ll jump in his seat’, but Lewis says he’s going to be around for another five years, so he’s going to be waiting a long time,” added the 2009 World Champion.

“So it needs to be a team where he thinks he can get a seat for 2024, otherwise it’s game over because you get forgotten after a year in F1.”

When the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso took some time away from Formula 1, they continued to race in different categories, with Raikkonen taking part in the World Rally Championship and Alonso in the World Endurance Championship.

Rumours had begun circulating that the Trackhouse Racing Project NASCAR team had offered Ricciardo a drive in 2023; however, the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix winner supposedly has no interest in other categories.

Button thinks it would be “great” for Ricciardo to get involved with the likes of the WEC given how he’d likely get a top seat; however, the Brit admitted that only the Aussie knows “what’s right for him”.

“Given the way Le Mans will be next year, with all the different manufacturers, [it will be] proper exciting,” said Button.

READ: Mercedes’ awesome reaction to Alpine signing Pierre Gasly

“You get in the door with a manufacturer as well, it could be a great future for him, but he’s not at that point yet, I don’t think, of thinking he wants to do something else.

“He might never do something else – like Lewis.

“It’s a difficult one for him. Only he knows what’s right for him right now.”