Defiant Ricciardo: 'I'm not walking away'

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Daniel Ricciardo is determined to prove a point to the doomsayers who have already written off his hopes of a revival with Formula One giants McLaren.

The 33-year-old Australian driver prompted surprise on Wednesday with a defiant message about how committed he is to Formula 1 racing and how he's determined to stay with McLaren through to the end of his contract next year.

"I'm working my ass off with the team to make improvements and get the car right and back to the front where it belongs," said Ricciardo in a passionate Twitter post.

"I still want this more than ever."

His message appeared like an emphatic response to the growing conjecture about his future with McLaren, with whom he has a contract through to the end of 2023.

But this year has proved a real struggle for the West Australian, as he's constantly been unable to match the pace of Lando Norris and currently lies five places behind his British teammate in the F1 drivers' standings in a distant 12th place.

It's led to his future at the Woking-based team being constantly questioned, especially since McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown said pointedly last month that Ricciardo's performances have "generally not met his or our expectations".

With speculation surrounding whether Ricciardo, the winner of eight grand prix but only one since he left Red Bull, might end his contract early at the end of this season, the Australian has acted decisively.

"There have been a lot of rumours about my future in Formula One, but I want you to hear it from me," he said in his post.

"I'm committed to McLaren until the end of next year and am not walking away from the sport.

"Appreciate it hasn't always been easy, but who wants easy?!"

He ended by saying "see you in Le Castellet", where next week's French Grand Prix will be taking place.

He finished ninth in the last grand prix in Austria, one of only three times this season that he's managed to finish in the top 10.

He's scored 17 points from 11 races so far, with a best result of sixth in his home Australian GP, compared to Norris's 64 points.

By announcing his planned commitment to McLaren, Ricciardo may have forced the hand of the British team into being more forward about declaring its hand for the 2022 season, with rumours continuing to swirl about potential replacements for Ricciardo.

One name that's been regularly bandied about is Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri, the young Australian F2 star who's being tipped to get his eagerly-anticipated first F1 drive next season after his frustrating year on the sidelines.

The 21-year-old Mark Webber-managed Piastri, who's also been linked with Williams, is supposedly not the only name in the McLaren frame, with IndyCar trio of Pato O'Ward, Colton Herta and champion Alex Palou also on their roster of motorsport talent.

In McLaren's statement announcing the Palou deal, he said he was "excited to be able to show what I can do behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and looking at what doors that may open".

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