Things seem to be going from bad to worse for Daniel Ricciardo, finishing 16th in his favourite race on the calendar this weekend.
The Australian was eliminated in Q1 before spending most of the race in the company of the backmarkers, such as Nicholas Latifi.
“Honestly, it’s been just so far off the pace that I simply can’t lean on it, can’t push, can’t get the time out of it.
“To have such a big margin [to Lando Norris] again remains a mystery,” he said post race.
Ricciardo seems set to take a year off the grid, with the aim of returning in 2024, and with how 2022 has gone for the 33-year-old it is no surprise that he has opted for a year out.
It is usually impossible to wipe a smile off the face of Ricciardo, however in recent weeks he looks dejected and is often spotted sat on his own, reflecting on his poor performances.
“When you think it can’t get worse it does,” he said.
“I don’t know how I’m continuing because painful is an understatement.”
The Australian looks set to reject Haas, despite Guenther Steiner telling the 33-year-old that he is only a phone call away if he would like to throw his hat in the ring for Mick Schumacher’s seat.
The Haas team principal admitted his confusion at Ricciardo’s unwillingness to join his team, not understanding why he would rather not be on the grid at all, wondering if Ricciardo had something against Haas specifically.
“With what’s available now, it’s better to focus my goal on something else,” said the eight-time race winner when asked about a move to Haas.
“I think it would be better for me to stick to my plan.”
It initially looked like Ricciardo would take the reserve driver role at Mercedes left by the AlphaTauri bound Nyck de Vries, but a return to Red Bull has emerged as the most likely outcome.
“I don’t know, for now it’s just rumours,” he said in Austin.
“Am I talking? Yes. But we haven’t put pen to paper or anything like that yet.”
With Sergio Perez contracted at Red Bull until the end of 2024 it seems unlikely that Ricciardo will be able to secure a Red Bull seat at the end of his sabbatical, so it remains to be seen which top team would have a vacancy for the Australian, who dreams of returning to the front of the grid in the coming years.