Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of remaining on the Formula 1 grid in 2023 have taken another hit, as a potentially vacant seat has already had its possible successor announced.
The much-loved Australian is searching for a drive for next season, after himself and the McLaren F1 Team announced prior to the Belgian Grand Prix that they would be parting ways at the end of the season, thus terminating his contract for 2023.
McLaren will be replacing the Australian with one of Ricciardo’s countrymen, 2021 F2 World Champion Oscar Piastri.
Whilst it’s not been made official, it’s arguably the worst kept secret in the paddock.
It’s left the 33-year-old looking around at the options for next season, with Ricciardo wanting to get back to fighting for podiums and victories.
His best option remains the Alpine F1 Team; however, they’ve recently increased their interest in French driver Pierre Gasly.
Gasly appears to potentially be ahead of Ricciardo on Alpine’s list to replace Fernando Alonso, with Mick Schumacher also a strong candidate for the seat.
Current Alpine driver Esteban Ocon has backed Schumacher to join the team, with the young German set for the sack from the Haas F1 Team.
If either Gasly or Schumacher join the Enstone-based team, then this would open up a seat at either Scuderia AlphaTauri or Haas.
AlphaTauri looks most definitely off the cards, with the Aussie having left the Red Bull system making any form of return difficult to comprehend.
Dr Helmut Marko has already earmarked the two drivers he would consider anyway, should Gasly leave the Faenza-based outfit.
Schumacher is one of the drivers being considered by Marko, as is IndyCar driver Colton Herta.
So, with AlphaTauri not an option, what about Haas?
Ricciardo and Haas boss Guenther Steiner are reported to have had a phone call around the time of the Hungarian Grand Prix; however, this would be a step-backwards for the Honey Badger and would most likely result in a pay cut.
Former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi is also the bookies favourite for the seat, meaning that a move to the American side is increasingly unlikely for Ricciardo.
That just leaves Williams, the slowest team on the grid.
If Ricciardo moved to Williams to replace Nicholas Latifi, then it would all but certainly spell the end of his time in F1.
Unless Williams performs a miracle, Ricciardo would be as far from the podium as he could possibly get, last.
Alex Albon has managed the odd points finish here and there, most recently at Spa, but ultimately, they are the weakest team on the grid, something Ricciardo probably doesn’t want to be a part of.
Ricciardo was asked about his future during the Belgian GP, where the Aussie once again expressed his intent on remaining in the paddock.
“If it’s anything it’s F1. That’s the only place I see myself racing in the near future,” Ricciardo said.
“So that’s something I’m sure of at least what I want. But I want to see. This weekend’s been a bit of a wave and we’re into a triple-header so I feel like the next three weeks are going to be relentless.
“Not necessarily on this topic, but just as a schedule. So, I want to get these three under my belt and then see how I feel. I’m not interested in making any quick decisions or certainly nothing emotional
“We’ll see how it goes but certainly the objective, if I’m behind a race wheel, is a Formula 1 car for sure.”