Daniel Ricciardo has given his clearest indication yet about what 2023 will look like for him in Formula One.
The Aussie fought back from a 10-second penalty to produce his best performance of the season at the Mexican Grand Prix, won by Red Bull's world champion Max Verstappen.
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Ricciardo claimed driver of the day honours in Mexico City after reeling off overtakes on the soft tyres and finishing seventh for McLaren despite his penalty for causing a collision with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda.
The result was a morale-boosting one for the 33-year-old Aussie, who is without a seat for 2023 after McLaren's decision to replace him with fellow Aussie, Oscar Piastri.
Speculation has been rampant about where Ricciardo will end up in 2023, with the Aussie believed to be edging closer to a reserve driver role, in the hopes of securing a spot back on the grid in 2024.
Speaking after the Mexican GP, Ricciardo said he was weighing up a number of options but conceded that he wouldn't have a seat at an F1 team in 2023.
“I can confidently say I won’t be on the grid behind a wheel, but I still want to be in the sport. I want to be working with a team, still with the ambition to be back on the grid in 2024,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after the race.
“It’s honestly where my head’s at as well, I feel like a bit of time away from a race seat will actually do me good. And then try to, let’s say rebuild on something, for ’24.
“Let’s say I’m not done, but it’ll look a bit different.”
“No doubt the last two years have been quite hard. Especially when you put a lot in and it doesn’t quite come back, it can get you down... I know stepping away just gives you a different perspective. The way the seasons are, it’s pretty relentless. You don’t really get a chance to kind of rebuild.
“Everyone’s different but I truly believe that will be, let’s say, a blessing in disguise.”
Ricciardo says he needs to stay “active to some degree” in 2023 and that remaining "race fit" is crucial to his hopes to return to the grid in 2024.
The Aussie has been heavily linked to a reserve driver role at Mercedes for 2023, and those rumours were only strengthened after he shared a warm moment with team principal Toto Wolff after the Mexican GP.
While Ricciardo did confirm that a reserve driver role was his plan for 2023, he says a decision has not been made about which team that will be with.
“That (being a reserve driver) is the plan. I honestly don’t (know who it will be with). I’m certainly talking to teams. I still obviously want to keep a foot in the door for 2024,” he said.
“I’m sure seeing the light go out in race one I’ll already have that itch so I will want to be back in 2024.”
“I don’t want to say there’s a lot (of options) because I think if there was a lot I’d probably be in a race seat! But there is, how do I say it, there’s enough to certainly keep me interested and keep me on.”
Max Verstappen makes history in Mexico
Ricciardo's seventh-placed finish in Mexico came after Verstappen became the first driver in F1 history to claim 14 race wins in a season.
The Red Bull driver moved ahead of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to continue an utterly dominant year.
Hamilton finished second in his Mercedes, with Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez third in his home race.
And Ricciardo produced arguably his best race of the year after coming back from 13th position to storm into seventh with a brilliant drive.
Ricciardo's heroics came as he copped a 10 second penalty for the scary moment with AlphaTauri's Tsunoda on lap 51.
The McLaren ace attempted to overtake Tsunoda but lost grip and ended up slamming into his rival.
The questionable incident saw Tsunoda forced off the track, with the Japanese driver subsequently retiring from the race.
"What the f**k is he doing," Tsunoda said after the collision.
After the race, Ricciardo said he felt disappointed at how the incident unfolded.
“I’m a little mixed about it. Of course you never want contact to a point where the other guy goes off. I just saw a replay… I don’t feel as bad about it now. Of course I wish it still didn’t happen," he said.
“I thought five (seconds) would have been okay... I’ll take a bit more responsibility but I can’t say it was 100 per cent my fault."
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