Mercedes reserve position could be win or bust transfer for Ricciardo

A month on from McLaren’s bombshell announcement that Daniel Ricciardo might be dropped on the finish of the 2022 Method 1 season regardless of having a contract for 2023, the eight-time grand prix winner remains to be with out a job for subsequent 12 months.

He’s not a frontrunner for any of the 4 remaining gaps on the grid – two of them at groups he has starred for of their older guises.

A person who’s gained for Purple Bull Racing was by no means prone to return to what’s now AlphaTauri at this finish of his profession, however Ricciardo did appear a logical goal for Alpine as soon as it was clear its meant Fernando Alonso substitute Oscar Piastri was really usurping Ricciardo from McLaren.

However given he spent two years on a $25million per 12 months pay packet with what was then Renault in 2019 and ’20 however opted to hitch McLaren, the choice seems to be considered one of ‘by no means return’ on Alpine’s facet.

That leaves Williams or Haas, with the latter understood to be eager on both Ricciardo or Nico Hulkenberg coming in to switch Mick Schumacher if it decides towards giving him a 3rd 12 months.

However a Haas deal could be depending on Ricciardo being prepared to maneuver to a group that has by no means gained a grand prix and depends on its technical partnership with Ferrari for its skill to discipline automobiles. Such a transfer appears unlikely proper now.

It’s outstanding {that a} driver of Ricciardo’s repute and standing ought to have few attainable choices – and realistically solely with groups within the backside three of the championship.

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However that’s the state of affairs he faces, so the concept he may reject a proposal of a race drive with Haas or Williams – if both had been forthcoming – will not be so absurd.

One factor Ricciardo doesn’t have to be too involved about is the monetary facet. McLaren by no means disputed the actual fact he had a contract for 2023 so can have agreed to pay him handsomely for not driving considered one of its automobiles subsequent 12 months.

We don’t know the precise phrases of Ricciardo’s payout, however it will likely be substantial. And McLaren CEO Zak Brown has already made it clear that his group won’t stand in the way in which of Ricciardo racing elsewhere in F1, or some other collection, subsequent 12 months.

Ricciardo’s angle will not be considered one of ‘any port in a storm’ with the will to remain on the F1 grid in any respect prices. As an alternative, it’s all about taking the best choice – therefore why he might be prepared to countenance a non-racing position.

It’s onerous to think about a driver who has been an F1 star for the previous decade being prepared to take a seat on the sidelines and it’s unlikely Ricciardo would see himself doing that.

Until, that’s, it’s with a group which may simply supply him a pathway again to the entrance of the F1 grid. So who higher than Mercedes, the pre-eminent F1 group of the previous decade?

Ricciardo has made one factor abundantly clear – he desires to race on in F1. The 33-year-old insists that he nonetheless loves grand prix racing and ideally desires to have a race seat for 2023. However he’s additionally prepared to sacrifice subsequent 12 months if mandatory.

“The reality is, I’m holding each choice not just for subsequent 12 months, however for the longer term,” he stated lately.

“I nonetheless don’t know what subsequent 12 months seems like. I do need to race. Though this has been a difficult time in my profession, it hasn’t taken the love of the game away from me and that need to nonetheless be right here and compete.

“There’s clearly many talks or ideas about subsequent 12 months and past that.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Race Day Monza, Italy

That features the opportunity of taking a sabbatical from F1 with a view to a return in 2024, or perhaps a reserve driver position. Certainly, when Ricciardo stated he was holding each choice open it was in response to a direct query about the opportunity of being Mercedes reserve – regardless that Lewis Hamilton has made clear he thinks Ricciardo’s “far too proficient” for that position and deserves to be on the grid as an alternative.

Pushing to be Mercedes reserve could be all in regards to the lengthy sport – maybe bolstered by a need to see behind the scenes of the group that he’s been overwhelmed by continually all through his F1 profession.

It might hold him sharp, with the chance to participate in tyre assessments and drive the simulator repeatedly.

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And there’s at all times the prospect that he might be wanted to face in for one of many common Mercedes drivers ought to they be unavailable. Plus, given many groups share reserve drivers, Ricciardo might even get an opportunity to drive elsewhere as a stand-in. Aston Martin, Williams and sarcastically McLaren are all Mercedes prospects.

Most importantly, whereas on the bench with Mercedes Ricciardo will be capable to assess a wider vary of choices for 2024. If he impresses Mercedes internally, that might put him in with a sensible shout of a race drive in 2024 ought to Hamilton resolve to depart F1 when his contract concludes on the finish of subsequent 12 months.

That is likely to be an extended shot, however Mercedes would be capable to benchmark Ricciardo towards common drivers Hamilton and George Russell and perceive how effectively he suits into the group.

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Have been Hamilton to resolve to retire on the finish of subsequent season, that may at the least put Ricciardo on the radar for top-of-the-line seats in F1.

There’s no likelihood of Mercedes – or some other prime group – significantly contemplating Ricciardo proper now given the 2 poor seasons he’s endured at McLaren.

However getting concerned behind the scenes at Mercedes and getting behind the wheel even when solely within the simulator or at assessments would enable him the chance to indicate the group that the outdated Ricciardo velocity remains to be in there someplace.

He may see it as one final, daring roll of the cube within the hope of getting a shot in a probably title successful automobile. You’ll be able to see why it would enchantment greater than driving round within the midfield to increase his profession and prime up his already-healthy financial institution stability whereas hoping a struggling group’s tempo will dramatically enhance.

This all assumes there’s a deal on supply. So would Mercedes need Ricciardo? It’s a very good query, nevertheless it might have a emptiness for a reserve given Nyck de Vries will possible now have a race seat someplace.

Ricciardo could be a really completely different sort of reserve for Mercedes, which has historically used youthful drivers within the position. There’s additionally the issue that Ricciardo is way too skilled to take part within the necessary two FP1 outings groups should give younger drivers through the season. De Vries (pictured beneath) has been deployed by Mercedes, Williams and Aston Martin in that position.

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Mercedes may also at present name on its Method E champion Stoffel Vandoorne as an F1 stand-in if wanted, however that relationship will finish going into 2023 as Vandoorne strikes to the brand new DS Penske partnership in FE following Mercedes’ pullout.

If Ricciardo had been prepared to go for the reserve job – and there has apparently been some contact between the 2 events in regards to the risk – then Mercedes could be smart at the least to contemplate it.

At worst, it will get an excellent reserve driver choice with a confirmed monitor document of operating on the entrance and, at greatest, it will have an answer to the query of who to signal when Hamilton retires.

We don’t know whether or not Ricciardo actually desires to tackle a task like this, which might contain schlepping around the globe to take a seat on the sidelines on grand prix weekends (although he might be social media gold for Mercedes’ promotional facet whereas doing that) and loads of time spent on the group’s Brackley base with out the assured likelihood to truly race in F1.

Ricciardo has pressured that he’s prepared to be affected person and can keep away from making an emotional determination. However he’s additionally clear that when it comes to racing, his sole focus is F1 and he gained’t be going elsewhere in motorsport. Even when the one technique to keep in F1 is to skip 2023 with an eye fixed on 2024 and past.

“Look, I’ve actually accepted that if I’m to not be on the grid subsequent 12 months, I’m OK with that,” he stated after his Italian Grand Prix retirement.

“I’ve accepted that I’m not going to do every part – or my [management] group – isn’t going to do every part to be on the grid if it’s not proper or doesn’t make sense.

“This season has been difficult and if I’m on the grid, I need to understand it’s a spot I can get pleasure from and really feel like I can thrive. An setting I can thrive in.

“I don’t need to simply soar right into a automobile for the sake of it. Days like this [Monza race day] actually are irritating however give it 24, 48 hours and I’ll recover from it and attempt to perceive what’s greatest for subsequent 12 months.

“Not in an over-confident or cocky means, but when it’s not meant to be, I’m OK with that, I’m not going to be too proud. We haven’t given up on it nevertheless it’s type of the place my head is in the mean time.”

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Pursuing a reserve position with Mercedes could be a calculating transfer. However whereas some would dismiss the thought as humiliating, it’s effectively value Ricciardo contemplating if he nonetheless harbours ambitions of getting again right into a race-winning, and even world championship difficult, automobile.

The argument towards him doing so is that it’s a long-shot that it will repay given that may be depending on Hamilton strolling away from F1 on the finish of subsequent 12 months and Mercedes not selecting an alternate choice. That’s what makes it a high-risk, high-reward choice.

Given considerations about his skill to deal with this newest technology of F1 automobiles, the logical transfer could be to attempt to keep on the grid and carry out effectively, as doing so in restricted equipment would at the least partially dismiss the considerations that his greatest days are behind him.

However a Mercedes reserve position – ought to it’s one out there to him. could be the high-stakes gambler’s route, one possible main nowhere however which may simply enable him to beat the home and discover his means again right into a prime seat for 2024.

The difficulty is, it’s very a lot win or bust with the percentages firmly on the facet of the latter.

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