McLaren looked at some alternative options before Daniel Ricciardo’s confirmation that he will be remaining in their Formula 1 team next season.
The Australian has been off the pace of team-mate Lando Norris since he joined the side at the beginning of last year, and he has now been out-qualified 24 times in 33 races by the 22-year-old.
Ricciardo’s 16 points finishes in 33 races are beginning to outweigh his famous victory in Monza last season – McLaren’s first since 2012.
The 33-year-old has not been helped by an underperforming McLaren car under the new technical regulations in 2022, but three points finishes and a failure to get near the rostrum has drawn criticism from his own CEO, Zak Brown.
The American admitted previously that Ricciardo’s tenure has not “met his or our expectations,” and stressed that he wanted to see him start matching Norris on a more consistent basis.
This is easier said than done, especially since Ricciardo is in a car that does not suit him, and there has been plenty of speculation as to his future going into next season.
He has a contract with the British side that expires at the end of next year, but rumours have been sparked in recent weeks that the team and driver may decide to split up early, and plenty of names have been thrown into the mix.
The BBC report that both Williams driver Alex Albon and Sebastian Vettel were considered – both are out of contract at their respective teams at the end of this season, and Pierre Gasly was linked before he signed a new contract that keeps him at AlphaTauri until the end of next year.
But further threats are coming from within the McLaren Group, particularly after the signing of IndyCar champion Alex Palou by the McLaren Arrow SP Team, and the Spaniard’s contract includes Formula 1 testing time.
Colton Herta, who drives for Andretti in the American series, recently tested in Portimao for the Woking-based side, and Patricio O’Ward was involved in a test for them in Abu Dhabi back in December.
Formula 2 driver Jehan Daruvala, who is part of the Red Bull programme, was given some track time by McLaren in Silverstone a few weeks back.
Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri has been mentioned too, but he looks likely to head to Williams to replace Nicholas Latifi, whose contract spears unlikely to be extended beyond the end of this year following a disappointing first half of the season for the Canadian.
Right now, it would seem that Ricciardo will leave at the end of 2023, at such time McLaren will have some difficult choices to make, with Gasly and Herta looking the most likely options.