Daniel Ricciardo risks having his F1 career defined by his ignominious two-year stint with McLaren, former F1 champion Jenson Button has warned.
The 2009 world champion said Ricciardo's decision to spend next season on the F1 sidelines, ideally as a reserve driver, was a risky gambit compared to taking a seat with either Williams or Haas.
Ricciardo remains determined to compete in race-winning machinery, an unlikely prospect with the aforementioned backmarkers, but Button said he would at least get the opportunity to showcase his skills, even if he was racing for points instead of podiums.
Last weekend's Mexican Grand Prix was a rare bright spot in a difficult 2022 season for Ricciardo, with a strategy move to go fit soft tyres enabling him to slice through the field in typical fashion for a commanding seventh place finish.
It was made all the more impressive considering he had to shake off an unfortunate clash with Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda which sent the Japanese driver out and cost Ricciardo a 10 second time penalty.
Late on the brakes for the overtake - from out of nowhere! 😳
Honey Badger things. 🍯🦡 pic.twitter.com/SXPzyoPxOR
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 2, 2022
Two seasons with McLaren have yielded a solitary podium for Ricciardo, albeit a major one, winning last season's Italian Grand Prix ahead of teammate Lando Norris.
Button argued Ricciardo would be better served having a chance to showcase his skills with a different team, particularly given his struggles getting to grips with McLaren's F1 package.
“I guess he didn’t want to drop too far down the grid and work with a team that’s more towards the rear because it’s difficult for a driver coming from a team that is almost winning races, at times, to suddenly know you’re fighting for points,” Button told Sky Sports.
“It is tough. But I still think it would have been a better move for him. Go into a team, work hard, show people what you can do, in a car that maybe suits you a bit more, and then people forget what happened the year before.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 1, 2022
“That’s the issue now, people forget how good Ricciardo is because he’s had such a difficult year-and-half or two years. But he has the talent, and in a car that suits him, he would show his skill and then he has the opportunity to race in a top team again.
"But sitting out? People just remember what happened last year. It’s a tricky one and I really struggle to see him coming back to a competitive team after having a year out.”
Daniel Ricciardo vows to return to F1 in 2024
Ricciardo has said he intends to return to the Formula One grid in 2024 after "hitting pause" for 2023.
The 33-year-old Australian driver, an eight-time race winner, came to a mutual agreement with McLaren in August to leave the team at the end of the 2022 campaign.
Ricciardo confirmed that although he couldn't secure a seat for next season, his career in F1 is not over.
"Certainly the plan is still to be involved in F1," he told English newspaper the Mirror. "It's kind of like just hitting pause for a little bit, as I see it — and let's say as far as my F1 career goes the full intention is (to be driving) for '24."
As the wait goes on for news about Ricciardo's future, many fans have wondered why Ricciardo doesn't follow the lead of former F1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson and ply his trade in the US-based Indycar series.
Widely regarded as one of the top open-wheel racing series in the world, Ricciardo would be a lucrative target for Indycar teams thanks to his massive popularity in America.
Unfortunately for fans of the series, Ricciardo has ruled out any such move, but not because of his commitment to F1.
“Ovals scare me,” Ricciardo admitted to The Race.
“My Formula 1 career-slash-ambition is not over, so that’s really first and foremost.
“I don’t want to deviate, I would say primarily for that reason. But also, ovals: no.
“Ten years ago I would have said yes, but I’m OK to admit that I’m not OK with ovals.”
Indycar already has a strong Australian presence thanks to Will Power, while former Supercars champion and New Zealand native Scott McLaughlin has also made a splash since joining the series in 2021.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.