Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed at the Mexican Grand Prix that the Germans are in talks with outgoing McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo to become their new reserve driver in 2023; however, the Austrian believes the Aussie is “also talking to Red Bull”.
Ricciardo enjoyed his best race of the year so far at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, after storming from 12th to seventh in the final 20 laps.
Whilst he did force Yuki Tsunoda to retire after hitting him on Lap 51/71 for P11, the 33-year-old was a rocket ship in the closing stages, after running a long opening stint on the Mediums before switching late on to the Softs.
This saw the Honey Badger have a huge speed advantage over the rest of the midfield, which saw him catch, and pass, all of them with ease.
Ricciardo was so fast, in fact, that he managed to claim seventh place and then build a gap of over 10-seconds, to eliminate the 10-second penalty he was awarded for ‘causing a collision’ with Tsunoda.
Ricciardo’s strong performance comes amid both of Mercedes’ reserve drivers having been confirmed at other teams for 2023, leaving Wolff with at least one place to fill at the team.
Nyck de Vries is, of course, moving to AlphaTauri to partner Tsunoda in 2023, whilst Stoffel Vandoorne was confirmed on Tuesday to be moving to Aston Martin, where he’ll occupy the same role.
The Honey Badger did officially announce after the race in Mexico that he won’t be on the grid in 2023 but is targeting a 2024 return.
Wolff thinks Ricciardo would be an “absolute strength” at any side, but that the Silver Arrows “haven’t decided anything yet”.
“I think Daniel is talking to several teams about a possible role as a reserve,” Wolff said in Mexico.
“I think he is also talking to Red Bull.
“For us, we think he’s a great character, but we are not ready yet to say who our third driver will be next season.
“His personality is an absolute strength and Daniel has been here for a long time. He knows these cars inside out.
“That can definitely be an advantage, but I don’t want to start any rumours here because the truth is that we haven’t decided anything yet.”
Wolff and Ricciardo do appear to already have a good relationship, after the Mercedes boss had an image of himself wearing Ricciardo’s clothing line posted to Instagram.
The McLaren driver joked about the collab in Mexico, where he revealed he gave his potential future boss “free samples”.
“It’s good stuff,” he said regarding his clothing line.
“It’s simple as that. I gave George [Russell] a sweater and Toto messaged saying he really liked it.
“So I said, ‘You’ll get one too.’ Free samples, so to speak.”
Wolff elaborated on the photo, where he revealed when he’ll be wearing what the Aussie gave him.
“I’m promoting his merchandise,” he told Sky Sports.
“They just took a photo with some stupid glasses on me and then put it online but the sweatshirts I’m going to wear it overnight.”