Daniel Ricciardo's hopes of making an F1 comeback have been given a timely boost, with rumours picking up regarding Lewis Hamilton potentially moving on from Mercedes. Ricciardo, who has been linked to an unlikely 2023 comeback with Red Bull sister team Alpha Tauri, has maintained he only want to return to the series with a team that boasts championship-contending credentials.
Hamilton has reportedly been mulling over a move away from Mercedes, the team where he has won six of his seven F1 drivers' championships. Mercedes have fallen back to the F1 pack somewhat under the new technical regulations introduced for the 2022 season, a far cry from the dominance they showed from the 2014 season onwards.
Though Hamilton remains most likely to stay with Mercedes, the 36-year-old has admitted to a curiosity regarding a potential stint with Ferrari. According to the Daily Mail, Ferrari president John Elkann has already held advanced discussions with the seven-time champ.
It comes as Ferrari's current lead drive, Charles Leclerc, comes under increased scrutiny after a series of high profile crashes in 2023 so far. Ferrari have long held that Leclerc, who joined the team in 2019, is a championship calibre driver who has not yet been given the machinery to prove it.
However the Italian team is reportedly prepared to pair Hamilton with either Leclerc or their current second driver, Carlos Sainz, depending on how negotiations proceed. Leclerc may not be thrilled about sharing the spotlight with Hamilton - with a switch to Mercedes equally on the cards for the Monaco-born driver in such a scenario.
“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about ending my career anywhere else," Hamilton said in a recent ESPN interview. “I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and of course you wonder what it would be like to be in red.
“But then I go to my team, to Mercedes, and this is my home. I’m happy where I am. I haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are working on one.”
Mercedes being just shy of being a true front-runner in 2023 comes after Hamilton, for the first time in his career, failed to win a race in 2022. The German manufacturer won just one race last year, when George Russell claimed victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo angling for F1 comeback in 2024
Meanwhile, Ricciardo has been quietly going about his business as the test and reserve driver for Red Bull, after leaving McLaren at the end of the 2022 season to make way for fellow Aussie driver Oscar Piastri. After spending much of last season well off teammate Lando Norris' pace, Ricciardo publicly said he hoped to use a break in 2023 as a launchpad for a comeback the following year.
However there is a possibility of that happening sooner rather than later, with Red Bull's infamously ruthless Dr Helmut Marko reportedly unimpressed with what Alpha Tauri's Nyck de Vries has shown in his first full F1 season to date. Ricciardo has had a seat fitting with Alpha Tauri, however this was purely in case of a disaster preventing one of their drivers from racing.
Any appearance for Alpha Tauri this season would likely only be limited to a handful of races, with the team believed to prefer New Zealand's Liam Lawson for any long-term role with the team. Ricciardo's contract with Red Bull doesn't have room for a full-time move to Alpha Tauri either.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has previously said Ricciardo is '10 minutes away' from driving an F1 car, an indication of the West Australian's readiness to jump back in the cockpit. He has previously raced for Alpha Tauri in 2012 and 2013 under the Toro Rosso guise.
And in his latest interview with ESPN, Ricciardo hinted that he could be eyeing a spot as the second driver at Red Bull. “I’ve been in the simulator, but I will drive the RB19 (for the first time) in July after the Silverstone race,” Ricciardo said.
“Then maybe I’ll get another one after Monza as well in September. I’m certainly excited to drive a fast car, but also a car that maybe still feels familiar to me – it does a little bit in the sim.
“But I’m just excited to drive again and to just try to remind a team obviously I once had a lot of success with that I can still turn a fast lap.”
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