‘It’s just weird’: Jenson Button reveals if Daniel Ricciardo has ‘checked out’

Daniel Ricciardo is set for a return to former side Red Bull in 2023 as their reserve driver.

Daniel Ricciardo is probably more excited about a year on the side-lines than ever before, after what was a horrendous United States Grand Prix for the driver who loves the Circuit of the Americas.

Thursday saw the Australian in his usual fine-form, as the 33-year-old rode a horse into the paddock, with the animal having its own paddock pass!

That was arguably the peak of his weekend, as the outgoing McLaren driver was once again eliminated in Q1 and then went onto finish P16 in the race.

Ricciardo languished at the back throughout the race and was even caught enduring a mini-battle with the equally struggling Nicholas Latifi, with some fans highlighting that as a sign of how far the eight-time race winner has fallen.

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The fan favourite was perhaps his most downbeat he’s been seen all year after the race, where Ricciardo explained to the media that he simply couldn’t push due to a struggle with grip.

It’s starting to appear that a year on the side-lines as a reserve driver might actually do the Aussie some good, with Sky Sports journalist Ted Kravitz having revealed on Saturday that the McLaren driver had signed a deal to become someone’s reserve for 2023, and that it wasn’t Mercedes.

Most therefore predict that Ricciardo has agreed a deal to return to Red Bull; however, the Aussie denied that anything had been signed.

Ex-F1 driver Jenson Button, who is also friends with Ricciardo, explained after the race that he “can’t explain” why the former Red Bull driver is so slow currently, but that he ultimately hasn’t “checked out”.

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“Seeing him right at the back of the field, I can’t explain it,” Button told Sky Sports after the race.

“It’s a tough one. I don’t think he’s checked out. Daniel will always want to fight but it’s just not working for him.”

The Brit also doesn’t seem too keen on the idea of Ricciardo essentially becoming a “third driver”, with the Aussie having rejected the idea of pursuing a possible move to Haas or Williams in order to remain on the grid full-time next season.

Button wishes his friend had tried to remain on the grid for next year, with the former McLaren driver wanting him to “prove himself” at a lower team.

“I don’t think you can advise him in that situation, it’s got to be about what he’s feeling inside,” said the 2009 World Champion.

“But I can’t see Daniel in the paddock as a third driver, it’s just weird for me, it doesn’t work, but that’s obviously what he’s chosen to do. It feels right to him.

“I’d rather him be racing further down in the grid in a team where he can prove himself and maybe get a driver further up the grid [in the future]. As a third driver, everyone will just remember his final race this year.”

Ricciardo has continued to explain that his plan is to return to full-time racing in Formula 1 in 2024, following a year on the bench; however, Button isn’t sure what he’ll “get out” of a season being a reserve.

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The role is usually held by either a junior driver or one who’s unlikely to return full-time, with Ricciardo failing to fit into either category.

“I don’t know what he’s going to get out of being a third driver, that’s the thing,” Button said a few weeks ago.

“He’s not a young driver so he can’t drive the car next year at race weekends. So he’s not really going to get anything out of it.”