It looks increasingly likely that Daniel Ricciardo will not be on the grid for 2023.
The Australian has seen his McLaren team opt to put youngster Oscar Piastri in his seat for next season, following two underwhelming years paired up with Lando Norris.
Over the past couple of days it has emerged that the 33-year-old might be heading back to his old team Red Bull as a reserve driver, putting himself out of the reckoning for one of the vacant seats at Haas or Williams.
McLaren boss Zak Brown recently commented that he understands Ricciardo’s decision to turn down those teams, with his winning pedigree not matching up to what he could realistically achieve in those cars.
With Mick Schumacher’s place at Haas in serious doubt, not helped by the German failure to get out of Q1 in Austin, team boss Guenther Steiner has admitted his confusion as to why Ricciardo is seemly not interested in joining the team.
“I think you need to ask Danny that one, not me, about why he doesn’t want to race,” said Steiner when asked about Riccardo’s decisions.
“I don’t know if it’s something against Haas or he just decides to do something different for a year.
“I cannot guess what he wants to do.”
It is thought that Steiner was keen on recruiting the eight-time race winner, with the team boss sending the Australian a text back in September.
With Ricciardo’s desire to be back at the front of the grid, and his confidence clearly taking a knock over the past two seasons, Steiner was keen for him to make his own decisions without feeling pressured, but made it clear the door was always open.
“I want him to decide what he wants to do for himself, first, before being talked into something.
“If he’s interested in us, he’s not shy to call me up,” he suggested.
It was initially believed that Ricciardo would spend next season as a reserve driver at Mercedes, after Nyck de Vries joined AlphaTauri, freeing up the role.
However it now looks like the perfect storyline is emerging, with Red Bull now the most likely destination for the 33-year-old, the team he left just a few years ago at which we saw him at his best, and his happiest.