Daniel Ricciardo leaning towards making return to F1 grid in 2024
Despite some believing there are 'not many doors' for an F1 return, Daniel Ricciardo is remaining positive.
Though Daniel Ricciardo's plans to return to the F1 grid in 2024 have been labelled fanciful by some motorsport observers, the eight-time grand prix winner says he is more motivated than ever to make a comeback. Ricciardo said he was left feeling burnt out after his stint with McLaren disappointed, ultimately ending a year early.
Ricciardo and McLaren agreed to part ways late last year, paving the way for fellow Australian driver Oscar Piastri to take his place. Piastri, the former F3 and F2 champion, will compete in his first Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
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Watching from the sidelines will be Ricciardo, fresh from a seat fitting and other promotional duties in his role as reserve driver for Red Bull. Barring an unlikely scenario in which one of Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez in unable to race, Ricciardo otherwise won't be on the grid in any capacity this season.
And while that suits the 33-year-old, who is enjoying the mental break after two years of searching for answers with McLaren, the atmosphere at Albert Park has been undeniable for the 232-race veteran. He said he would look further into potential opportunities closer to July - typically known as the 'silly season' for driver movement.
“The signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid,” he said. “I feel like that’s currently where I’m tracking, at least in my head. … I’ve even put myself in scenarios now where I’m like, if I got back on the grid tomorrow, what would I do differently?
“You just don’t have the chance when you’re in it. But I also think that everything happens for a reason.
“Having the chance to step back and just review everything from afar, and with the luxury of time as well, not to be forced to make a decision or rush anything, I feel that if I’m to get back on the grid, I honestly believe I’ll be a better version of myself. A more mature, experienced, complete version.”
However options could still be thin on the ground for Ricciardo next season. He's stated previously a desire to compete for a top team once again, however the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari have their driver line-ups sewn up in the short term.
Daniel Ricciardo determined to break back into Formula One
A shock move for Lewis Hamilton to leave Mercedes could present an opportunity, but other drivers may be more appealing for Mercedes given Ricciardo's time off the grid. That leaves an opening at another team - however former teams Alpine and McLaren would almost certainly be off the table.
Australia's only F1 champion, Alan Jones, said he believed Ricciardo could still compete but would struggle to find a opportunity. He compared Ricciardo's position to fellow veterans Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikonnen, both of whom made successful F1 comebacks mid-career.
“In relation to him ever getting back into a Formula One car, you never say never, he is a reserve driver, and you never know what might happen as far as coming out of a sabbatical is concerned,” Jones said. “If he did I think he would be quite good.
"We’ve seen Alonso come out of a break and Raikkonen come out of a sabbatical and both go extremely well. But I just don’t know where Daniel would go, because at the end of the day, I can’t see Red Bull getting rid of the two that they’ve got.
“I can’t see Ferrari getting rid of the two of them (Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc). Where does Lewis Hamilton go? He wouldn’t go anywhere unless it was a good team. So there’s not really that many doors for Daniel to go through.”
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