The future of Daniel Ricciardo in Formula 1 has been up in the air since his departure from the McLaren team was confirmed on August 24 at the end of this season despite having a valid contract for 2023, being replaced by Oscar Piastri champion of F2 in 2021.
While the driver market is still in flux, with several teams having at least one of their two seats free, it appears that Ricciardo’s options to continue on the top-flight grid are very limited , perhaps coming down to just Haas. F1 Team or Williams, as long as he accepts a significant pay cut.
However, in the run-up to the Italian Grand Prix, the British newspaper Daily Mail revealed that the Australian could take on the role of reserve driver for the Mercedes team for 2023.
The driver himself was asked about it at Monza and said that his intention was to be a regular driver, but indicated that he was “evaluating everything” in terms of his future plans in F1.
While it could easily be argued that becoming a reserve driver , even for a top team like Mercedes , would be a huge step backwards for Ricciardo, a driver who has won eight races and stood on the podium 32 times, Damon Hill believes the former Red Bull could find some benefits going forward.
“I think there’s a certain logic to that,” Hill said on Sky Sports F1 . “If he is at least in a top team, even if he is behind the scenes and waiting for the right opportunity, he will have useful information for another team maybe, in the future,” he argued.
“But all the team managers will look at him and ask the same questions ‘how is his rhythm? Is he going to be what he was?’ And that is the great unknown. Nobody knows.”
Damon Hill acknowledged that he would like to see Ricciardo being competitive again, but would also like to know why things started to go so badly for the 33-year-old when he signed for McLaren at the start of 2021.
“Danny has been a fantastic character for our series, effervescent and always smiling and all that, but something has gone wrong,” he said.
“Not only in his performance since he has been at McLaren, but also in his strategy to have a competitive car.”
“Something has gone wrong there and we hope that he comes out of this stage seeing the positive side, however small, and we can see him competing at the front again,” concluded the 1996 world champion.