Daniel Ricciardo poised to return to former team in 2023

Oscar Piastri has affirmed that he does not intend to race with Alpine next season.

Daniel Ricciardo unhappy after 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.v1

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has indicated that he would not be against Daniel Ricciardo returning to the team from McLaren.

The Australian signed with the French side under its Renault identity in 2019, but they suffered a disappointing season as they ended fifth in the Constructors’ Standings having ended fourth in 2019.

This would not have ordinarily looked so bad, but they finished 54 points behind McLaren, who themselves had ended 2018 in sixth.

Nico Hulkenberg was released ahead of the 2020 season and replaced with Esteban Ocon as the French team scored three podiums that year – two for Ricciardo and one for the Frenchman.

That all happened, however, with the team in knowledge of the fact that Ricciardo was headed off to McLaren in 2021, something which Renault CEO, Luca de Meo, was understood to be especially displeased about.

READ: Young Australian driver tipped to join McLaren, not Alpine

The team had put a lot of resources into Ricciardo, and team boss Cyril Abiteboul had affirmed that he was the driver the Enstone-based team wanted to base their future around.

Fernando Alonso is now set to leave Alpine for Aston Martin when his current deal with the French team expires at the end of the season, replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel.

The double world champion was set to be replaced by Oscar Piastri, but they waited a long time to decide whether they wanted him or Alonso in the car next season, so both have now decided they want to go elsewhere.

Article continues below

Piastri is thought to be wanting a move to McLaren, which will have been decided upon learning that Alpine, for whom he is a reserve driver, were reportedly willing to offer Alonso a “multi-year” deal.

That leaves Ricciardo as a viable option if he, despite his recent statements, were to leave McLaren at the end of 2022.

Speaking before Piastri’s shock announcement that he will not be driving for Alpine next season, Szafnauer suggested that he would be open to a Ricciardo return.

“I mean, if you look at Fernando, for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens to other drivers too,” he said, quoted by Autosport.

“And I don’t think that’s an issue at all, I think what we need to focus on is, like I say, the plans that we have for the next 89-88 races.

“We’ve got to make sure that we complement that plan with the best driver that we can, and there are some options out there for us. 

“And we [need to] put the best driver in next to Esteban, so that we can move forward towards what we’ve been planning.”

Jenson Button twice tried to leave BAR to return to Williams in 2005 and 2006 while he was driving for BAR, and both of those moves failed amid legal disputes.

In the end, it was a good job the Briton stayed where he was, as he would go on to win the title with the Brackley-based side in 2009 when Ross Brawn bought the folded Honda team.

Szafnauer had been hoping to avoid a repeat of that with Piastri.

“I’ve been around long enough where I’ve seen this kind of thing actually play out and happen,” he added.

READ: Mick Schumacher admits interest in Sebastian Vettel’s seat as Daniel Ricciardo addresses rumours

“When Jenson signed with Williams and ended up at British American Racing Honda, if you remember those days, there was absolutely no issue. 

“I mean, I know Oscar is different from Jenson, hopefully we don’t have to go down that route, anyway.

“But your presumption was, ‘oh, a driver wants to go somewhere else’. 

“So hopefully that’s not the case, but I have seen it where a driver actually signed with another team incorrectly, so had to drive for the team that he initially signed with.

“And it was absolutely no issue, Jenson at the time did a stellar job at BAR and never ended up at Williams.”

Piastri and Alpine are reportedly set to enter into a legal tussle, as the French side believe the Formula 2 is contractually obligated to race for them next season.