Daniel Ricciardo will be as disappointed in his own performance as McLaren have been, with the Australian never quite adapting to life away from Red Bull during spells with Renault and McLaren.
The team from Woking will be replacing the 33-year-old with Oscar Piastri for 2023, and while there were options for Ricciardo to remain in F1 with Haas or Williams, the eight-time race winner has announced that he will be taking a year away from the grid to give him a better chance of returning in 2024 at a top team.
It initially looked like Ricciardo would take the reserve driver role at Mercedes, as the Silver Arrows look to replace the AlphaTauri bound Nyck de Vries, however it now seems all but certain that the Australian will complete a fairy-tale return to Red Bull.
Chief advisor for the team, Helmut Marko, was asked about the Ricciardo rumours after free practice in Abu Dhabi and confirmed that their former driver will be re-joining the team for 2023.
“Ricciardo will be our third driver,” he stated in Abu Dhabi.
“We have so many sponsors, we do show runs and the like, so of course he’s one of the most high-profile and best suited for this.”
Ricciardo himself has admitted that a return could be close to official, with the Australian only needing a pen and paper to complete his move.
“We’re talking seriously about it, but there’s nothing signed,” said Ricciardo.
“I’m being honest, this is the situation. Maybe Helmut just misses me.
“You will definitely know when I sign the contract. Maybe it really will happen very soon.”
There was a late twist in the Ricciardo saga, as the fallout from the Brazilian Grand Prix saw tensions reach an all-time high between the current Red Bull driver pairing, sparking rumours that Ricciardo could even replace Sergio Perez, should the damage to his relationship with Max Verstappen be terminal.
“This is news that has not come from us,” said Marko when asked about the rumours.
“I can only tell you that his has been resolved internally between the two of them.
“One stayed longer in Brazil, the other flew away straight away. But it will all come together again.”
With Ricciardo looking for a chance to return to the top in 2024, the Australian will be keeping a close eye on Perez’s situation, quietly hoping that his seat might come available at the end of next season.