Daniel Ricciardo came agonisingly close to one of his best results of the season at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, the venue where, of course, he claimed a famous victory last year.
The Australian was forced into retirement from seventh place on Lap 47/53, with a suspected oil leak the cause.
The outgoing McLaren driver came to a halt between the two Lesmos; however, a Safety Car was needed due to his MCL36 having been stuck in gear, meaning a tractor was needed to lift the car to safety.
Due to the amount of time it took to safely remove Ricciardo’s car from the circuit, there was insufficient time for the race to be restarted, resulting in Max Verstappen claiming victory behind the Safety Car.
Ricciardo really needed the good result, with his Formula 1 career currently hanging by a thread.
“Days like this certainly are pretty frustrating,” he admitted following his retirement.
With Oscar Piastri replacing Ricciardo at the Woking-based team next season, Ricciardo’s options to remain on the grid next season are looking bleaker by the minute.
The Aussie was initially linked with a return to Enstone, which is the base of Alpine, who Ricciardo raced for whilst they were known as Renault.
Those rumours have quietened, with Haas now appearing as the only real option, but even that is looking increasingly unlikely.
With so many contracts ending at the end of 2023, Ricciardo has come to the acceptance that a one-year sabbatical from the sport might be his only option, with the aim being to return to the pinnacle of motorsport in 2024.
“I’ve certainly accepted, if I’m not to be on the grid next year, I’m okay with that,” said Ricciardo following Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
“So I’ve accepted that I’m not going to do everything, or my [management] team’s not going to do everything just to put me on the grid if it’s not right or it doesn’t make sense.
“Obviously this year’s been challenging and if I am on the grid, I want to know that it’s a place that I can enjoy it and feel like I can thrive. An environment I feel I can thrive in. I don’t want to just jump into a car for the sake of it.”
“But give it 24, 48 hours and I’ll get over it and try to understand what’s best for next year.
“Not in an overconfident or cocky way, but it’s not meant to be, then I’m totally okay with that. I’m not going to be too proud. We haven’t certainly given up on it, but that’s kind of where my head’s at, at the moment.”