Daniel Ricciardo fans handed major blow as Aussie makes bleak admission

Daniel Ricciardo is expected to become Mercedes' reserve driver for 2023 following his imminent McLaren departure.

Fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo potentially has just two races left in his Formula 1 career, as the Australian prepares for his 2023 sabbatical.

With the last two years having been a struggle for the Aussie, the 33-year-old has decided that a year out of full-time racing is what is best for him, in order to hopefully come back even stronger than before.

Ricciardo’s plan, as explained to the media, is to return to a full-time seat in 2024; however, there is no guarantee that a seat will be available.

Should a seat become available for 2024, then it will likely be at one of the teams lower in the midfield, at Haas, for example, the side he rejected for 2023.

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With that in mind, the ‘sabbatical’ could turn into an actual retirement from F1, something Ricciardo is “aware” could happen.

“I’m certainly aware and I’m also at peace with it if that’s the case,” he said, per Racer.

“I’m standing with my decision. Look, I don’t want this to be my last two races in F1, but if it is then I accept that could be an outcome.

“Let’s say, because I’m at peace with that, I’m then betting on myself that doing what I’m doing will prepare me for the best version of myself if I do get the opportunity.

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“I think it’s one where if I get the opportunity, I don’t want to be Daniel operating at 95 per cent; I want to be fully charged.”

A move to Mercedes as a reserve driver is what is expected for next season, although, many drivers both past and present believe that a year as a reserve driver isn’t good for the Honey Badger.

Lewis Hamilton is one of those to question Ricciardo’s decision, with the seven-time World Champion hailing the Aussie as too good to be a third driver.

The eight-time GP winner knows that taking a sabbatical is a “risk”, but that it’s one he’s willing to take over another uncompetitive year of racing in 2023.

“I feel a bit of risk on both sides,” he explained.

“But if I was to be back on the grid in 2024, this has the biggest upside in terms of I know I’ll be a better version of myself.

“I think the risk is jumping into a seat next year and it’s shown here in my time at McLaren that nothing’s guaranteed in terms of performance.

“If it was for whatever reason to be a relatively unsuccessful campaign, I think personally I would probably be done with the sport.

“That risk seems way bigger than the risk of sitting out a year.”

It does appear that the idea of a year out is something that Ricciardo is excited for, given his struggles over the last couple of seasons.

Ricciardo explained that he knows what a “bit of absence” can do for him and is expecting a year on the side-lines to give him “all that hunger back”, which he’s crucially been missing.

“It’s funny, because people might say, ‘Well if you’re interested in 2024, why aren’t you interested in next year’, but I know the way I’ll feel having some time off and watching the races from the TV or somewhere in the paddock. It will give me all that hunger back,” Ricciardo added.

“I have the hunger still, but I want it to be overflowing, and I know just a bit of time off will do that, because I get it in a summer break and that’s only two or three weeks off.

“I really felt it in COVID when we had three months off or something, and I felt that was probably my best season since 2016 or something.

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“So I know what a bit of absence does for me. I appreciate every driver’s different and they feel how they feel, but I know thing the right time off next year will make me very hungry to be back on the grid in 2024.

“That’s why I say I do want to be back in 2024, but there’s no guarantees. I can’t sign a contract today to guarantee me a seat in 2024 — no one will do that, it’s not possible.

“But I’ll just try to do all I can next year to show that I still have the desire and the skill to do it.”