A 2023 Formula 1 grid without Daniel Ricciardo is hard to predict.
Fortunately, it’s not just a hard sell for the average F1 fan; Several teams are confident the eight-time race winner has plenty to offer in motorsport’s premier series.
With Oscar Piastri rumored to be lining up Mark Webber to usurp Ricciardo’s seat in 2023, rival teams are eyeing the 33-year-old for his next chapter.
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As many as four rival manufacturers have reportedly approached Ricciardo, according to ESPN, in the weeks leading up to McLaren’s offer to terminate his contract.
Determining which groups should be a simple matter of math.
Before Fernando Alonso’s bombshell, there were six teams with vacancies: Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and Williams.
Alpine narrowed the list down to five and thought it would be unmarketable because it had piasters on its books.
Alfatauri are closing in on re-signing Yuki Shunodane, who Franz Tost wants to give a third season to establish himself. Anyway, signing 33-year-old Ricciardo just doesn’t click with what Red Bull’s development team should be. Four teams remain.
Aston Martin removed itself from the list, but with Alpine looking sure to need new blood, the team’s suitors are stable at four, including Haas, Alfa Romeo and Williams.
So who is seriously clamoring for Ricardo’s services and who is most likely to attract his attention.
Alpine: Clear front
Alpine are unlikely to be among the teams to reach out to Ricciardo ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, as Alonso was confident of re-signing and Oscar Piastre was expected to be the Spaniard’s departure. Line up to replace him.
But once the car market kicks into gear, you can confirm that the French team will arrive during the week and be the clear frontrunner for Ricciardo’s services.
Why is it reasonable?
Alpine is the highest-placed team in the constructors’ standings – in fact, it’s one place ahead of McLaren, in fourth by a four-point margin, although this move represents a step forward on the grid. Inexplicably small.
The group is hiring to match the size of its front-line workforce, and has undertaken some capital works to upgrade the plant and is well-positioned to increase budgeted capital allocation in the coming periods.
Alpine now has a weak bargaining chip, falling 35 times in the 100 seed plan to become a regular stage host. Esteban Ocon is reliable enough but the team needs a top-quality winger, and there is no one on the market who comes close to Ricciardo’s potential or brand value.
And then there is a certain indefinable appeal to both parties—neither of which will accept, though strange things may happen—united in a common adversary. Both will certainly want to beat McLaren in a head-to-head battle, and are each other’s best odds to do so.
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The only thing stopping Ricciardo and Alpine from renewing the relationship that ended in 2020 is pride. Ricciardo is returning to the team he previously left, and Alpine will be taking back a driver who decided to leave after a year of racing.
But it is arguable that this would be a strong incentive to integrate.
For one thing, Alpine management has been on the clean-out side since Ricciardo left, which just means there’s too much bad blood to influence decision-making.
As early as last week, it was acceptable to re-hire Ricciardo as early as last week, when team principal Ottmar Szafnauer was still trying to project an air of confidence about keeping Piastre.
“I mean, if you look at Fernando for example, he comes and goes, and I think that happens with other drivers as well,” he said. Autosport. “I don’t think that matters. [with Ricciardo] at all.”
As for Ricciardo, he has proven during his tenure at McLaren that he is not afraid to take responsibility for his actions. He’s been upfront about underperforming, and a return to Alpine where he had one of the best seasons of his career in 2020 will be an extension of that.
Alpine may not be among the early adopters of Ricciardo’s service, but it’s certainly at the head of the pack.
HAAS: Trying the luck
Haas is the next team in the standings with no clear solution to its driver line-up if it splits with Mick Schumacher as the route to Ferrari is closed for the foreseeable future, either by its own initiative or by German switch teams.
Why is it reasonable?
Daniel Ricciardo is partly thanks to the box office in the United States Drive to salvationThanks partly to his love for America and partly to the efforts of his private team to bring out his personality.
For a Haas team that is on the rise but needs some branding, Ricciardo would be a great asset – and perhaps at least snag a star to convince Gene Haas of his commitment to supporting the team. Driver.
Ricciardo enjoys the relaxed and apolitical atmosphere in the midfield squad, perhaps enough to sway a decision.
While the midfield’s morale is a bit explosive over the next few years – Alonso doesn’t think ninth-placed Aston Martin has more hope than fourth-placed Alpine – Haas has been particularly inconsistent this season. . It’s a hard sell for Ricardo to imagine things going forward, not back.
Haas may question whether Ricciardo is ready for his ambition driver at this stage of his rebuild.
There is also a lack of clarity around whether Ferrari has final say over Haas’s second seat as part of its technical agreement with the team, which would presumably rule Ricciardo out of the race.
Williams: Without a clear successor
Williams was poised to become a dominant player in the driver market when it came to Alpine’s decision-making around Oscar Piastre and Fernando Alonso, but that power was taken away from Grove when both drivers left the French team emotionally drained.
In addition, Williams is left without a clear candidate for the second seat, currently held by Nicolas Latifi, who may be seen the door at the end of the year.
Why is it reasonable?
Williams has fielded mostly starters over the past five seasons, with the exception of Robert Kubica returning in 2019 after an eight-year injury layoff and Alex Albon, who was interrupted before spending two years in the Red Bull system. last year.
This means the team has no proven bar against which to measure the car’s ultimate performance. It gives the team a chance to find out how much more Ricciardo can be in the car or if what we see today is better than what the team got.
If Ricciardo is desperate to continue his Formula 1 career but can’t secure a contract with a better team, Williams will certainly be happy to take him on.
Like Haas, Williams may not be ready for a winner of Ricciardo’s stature. It is also telling that Daniel, with points to prove his last 18 months and eager to reclaim his name, is on a contract that guarantees more than his minimal midfield ability.
ALFA ROMEO: I don’t need a steering wheel.
Alfa Romeo is one of the best innovators in the sport this year and is on track to score the best points of its independent history. Zhou Guanyun is out of contract this offseason, and even if the Chinese rookie has acquitted himself well, the team is still looking to re-sign him.
Why is it reasonable?
The Sauber-led Alfa Romeo Group is said to be in talks to be bought by Audi. Sauber will be the developer of the German marque’s completed power unit program.
If the best way for a championship to compete is for a completely fledgling manufacturer, then getting off the ground before buying Audi – and spending big to accelerate growth where it can – may be the best shortcut going forward.
Valtteri Bottas’ strong performances and long-term contract mean Alfa Romeo doesn’t need a team leader, regardless of the Finn’s ability in the Australian’s eyes.
The team is also eyeing to promote development driver Theo Purcher from Formula 2. Despite his miss, another strong campaign could be enough to get him into F1 in 2024.
Marrying Ricciardo into Zhou Guanyu’s seat makes no sense when it’s ready for Sauber’s own driver.
What about the long game?
Apart from getting himself into a very competitive seat next season, there is one other criterion that could be on Ricciardo’s mind: making sure he is available to participate in the driver market activity in the coming seasons.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who are both out of contract next year, are due to retire at Mercedes and team boss Toto Wolff has previously declared himself a fan of the Australian. So a Mercedes-powered team can enjoy a slight improvement in negotiating power.
The 2024 season is Sergio Perez’s last under his current contract and Charles Leclerc will be up for renewal. Fernando Alonso is understood to have signed a two-plus-one deal with Aston Martin, which could also see him take the seat.
But before you jump on such speculations – if indeed they are on his mind – Ricciardo needs to break a contract to keep him in F1 next season.