Daniel Ricciardo Says 2023 F1 Reserve Driver Seat a ‘Realistic’ Option
The popular Australian F1 driver is quickly running out of options.
Daniel Ricciardo is stuck in a sort of Formula 1 purgatory at the moment. He's still driving for McLaren, a solid team with enough performance to land him in the top five at most races, or maybe even the podium should the stars align. However, his time with the team will soon come to an end, and his options to remain on the F1 grid for 2023 are looking abysmal. These include jumping at any race seat that opens up regardless of ranking, pulling a rabbit out of a hat and landing a full-time gig at a decent team, or maybe even taking a sabbatical from F1 and making a comeback in 2023. Now, however, there's another option on Ricciardo's radar, one that he recently said was "realistic": becoming a reserve driver at a top team.
Talking to the media on Thursday at the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, the popular Australian claimed to still be focused on what he calls "Plan A," which is to be on the grid next year. He also claims to remain "patient" and "open" to other options, including the possibility of serving as a reserve driver.
“[A reserve role is] certainly something that's realistic, yeah," said Ricciardo to F1.com when asked if his options included a reserve driver role at a top team or a seat at the back of the grid. “That's the two, I would say, realistic options. It's not to be anywhere else. I love other disciplines of motorsport but I don't see myself there. At least, I feel as though I jump into something like that and then it closes the door in F1. It kind of feels like I checked out and I haven't. So I'm solely focused on F1 and we'll see.”
As F1 pundit Will Buxton noted on Twitter, the chances of Ricciardo not coming back to F1 from a sabbatical are high, reserve drive or not. It's been proven repeatedly that stepping away from the circus has consequences, and only the likes of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikonnen have been able to pull this off with relative success. As far as I know, two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen is still on a sabbatical—one that began in 2001.
"For Daniel’s sake, I’m deeply worried by this. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see him coming back from an F1 sabbatical," said Buxton. "Best way to get through his current funk and back to his best is with his backside in a competitive racecar. NASCAR, Indycar… he’d love both. And they him."
Ricciardo, who is the only driver to have given McLaren a win in F1's modern hybrid era, claims to be focusing on not just the short term, but also the big picture. He's mostly thinking about other drivers' contracts, many of which are set to shake up at the end of 2023, where a nice spot could open up for him.
“My [management] team is talking with, I want to say, pretty much everyone, or they're having conversations,” he added. "So we’re just trying to put it all together and figure out what makes the most sense… I also don't want to just look at the next 12 months and not look at the next 24.”
With most 2023 race seats spoken for and the window for making a move rapidly closing, it'll be up to Ricciardo to deliver some exceptional performances over the last races of the season. Maybe this way, he'll motivate a team boss (or two) to make room for him. The rest is up to the Australian's management team.
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