If Daniel Ricciardo is to be ousted from McLaren to join another team, the British side will have to pay a significant severance package, as his contract does not expire until the end of next year.
The Australian has faced difficulties during his first two seasons with the Woking-based team, scoring points on just 17 occasions.
The 33-year-old has appeared to experience trouble getting to grips with a misbehaving car, which features a lot of understeer and front slip, but Ricciardo has always seemed to fare better with more oversteer, as he is extremely adept at controlling the rear.
He claimed a famous win in Italy last September, sealing McLaren’s first success since 2012 when Jenson Button won in Brazil, but that success constitutes his only papaya podium so far.
This season, the eight-time race winner has been facing speculation over his future, as well as the imminent threat of Oscar Piastri.
The 21-year-old has denied that he is going to be driving for Alpine next season to replace Fernando Alonso, despite currently serving as their test and reserve driver and having been part of their junior programme for several years.
It is thought that his manager, Mark Webber, has secured a deal with McLaren that would likely see Ricciardo return to Alpine, but there would be some housekeeping to do first.
Ricciardo affirmed a few weeks back that he was committed to remaining at McLaren until his contract expires at the end of next season, a statement he felt obliged to make after some public criticism from CEO Zak Brown.
If the eight-time champions are to send their driver on his way, journalist Peter Windsor estimates that they will have to fork out an eyewatering sum to part ways.
“It will be a hit in the region of twenty million,” he said in a YouTube video.
“Maybe more, or maybe less, maybe they can negotiate it down or they can finance a seat for him somewhere else. In any case, that will be the key before everything can fall into place.”
Windsor also indicated that Brown has out himself in a difficult situation, firstly by negotiating with another driver behind Ricciardo’s back, but also by giving the former Red Bull driver leverage in the original contract.
“What will take some time now is the deal that Zak Brown will make with Daniel,” he added.
“Daniel will be riding for him for the rest of this year, so it will not be a comfortable situation for Zak.
“He’s bound to regret the contract he drew up in the first place, which means Daniel now has so many options and he himself doesn’t.”
Piastri’s desire to leave Alpine likely stems from them holding off on loaning him out until they were sure of Alonso’s future, but the Spaniard was also tired of being kept waiting for a new deal with the reigning Formula 2 champion waiting in the wings.
Both drivers now have no interest in driving for the team next year, but Alpine are convinced that Piastri is contractually obliged to race with them in 2023.