Why taking a year out in 2023 may not improve Ricciardo’s chances of returning to F1

2023 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Two years ago Daniel Ricciardo’s stock was sitting at its highest level since he had departed Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season.

Fresh from securing his first podium with Renault at the Nurburgring, Ricciardo lay an unexpectedly strong fourth in the drivers’ championship. Only the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, plus his former Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen lay ahead of him in the standings.

Having already locked down Ricciardo to a three year contract months prior, McLaren’s Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl would likely have felt thrilled about the future for the team. With Lando Norris showing promising signs of development in his second season, the arrival of an experienced, race-winning veteran like Ricciardo to replace the departing Carlos Sainz Jnr felt in many ways like the best possible solution. And when McLaren ended the season in third place, it appeared the best was yet to come for the Woking team.

Fast-forward to October 2022 and now Ricciardo looks almost certain to be off the grid next season, despite being in no way ready for his Formula 1 career to come to an end.

In just over a year and a half with Ricciardo in their team, McLaren have felt one of the strongest examples of buyer’s remorse any F1 team has ever experienced. Despite the best efforts of both team and driver, and a mutual desire for the partnership to work, consistently underwhelming performances left McLaren with no choice but to cut their losses – and Ricciardo’s contract, which they are terminating a year early. But while McLaren have replacement Oscar Piastri lined up, Ricciardo is currently without a seat for 2023.

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Suzuka, 2022
Ricciardo seems uninterested in Haas seat for 2023
The only two teams left to confirm their driver line-ups for next season are Haas and Williams – both teams sitting at wrong end of the constructors’ championship table in joint-eighth and 10th places, respectively. While the doors to a place on the grid next season haven’t fully shut to Ricciardo, he clearly has little appetite to sign with either the two teams who are among the smallest on the grid.

“If he’s interested in us, he’s not shy to call me up. I am not going to chase him down,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told the Associated Press yesterday.

By his own admission, Ricciardo is setting his sights not on next year, but on 2024. “I think the reality is now I won’t be on the grid in 2023,” he admitted at Suzuka. “It’s now just trying to set up for 2024. I think there could be some better opportunities then.”

The prospect of taking a year out and returning to full time racing in Formula 1 the following season seems like a major gamble on Ricciardo’s part. After all, there are countless drivers in recent years who lost their places on the Formula 1 grid and simply never found a route back on it.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Sergey Sirtokin, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein, Felipe Nasr – just some of the names in a long list of drivers whose Formula 1 careers ended earlier than they intended. But that does not mean that a year out of Formula 1 is a death sentence for a driver’s career – far from it.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Over the last 20 years, a total of 21 drivers have taken at least a full season out of Formula 1 after running at least two races the year before and returned to the grid to race multiple rounds the following season. The 2022 season has seen two such cases – Alexander Albon and Kevin Magnussen both rejoined the field this year after the pair of them did not compete a single race in 2021.

Alex Albon, Williams, Suzuka, 2022
Albon returned to F1 after a year away
So it would certainly not be unusual to see Ricciardo find a way back onto the grid in 2024 if he does sit out the next year of grand prix racing. But where are the likely landing spots the eight-time grand prix winner might consider worthy of his talents?

If Ricciardo is holding out in hope of a competitive seat for 2024, it’s hard to see a way that he will not end up disappointed. Ferrari are committed to their two drivers both much younger than Ricciardo. A return to Red Bull is also unlikely, with Sergio Perez holding a contract for 2024 and adequately fulfilling the supporting role to Verstappen.

At Mercedes, Hamilton will have freedom to continue with the team as long as he wants to, while George Russell knows his future at the team is entirely within his own hands. Despite Hamilton having mulled the idea of retiring before he races deep into his forties, the seven-time champion has also admitted Mercedes’ struggles this season have reignited his motivation – seemingly reducing the chances of Hamilton freeing up his seat at Mercedes any time soon.

Having raced with Renault for two season before their evolution into Alpine, Enstone seems the most obvious place for Ricciardo to try and re-establish his F1 career once more. However, doing so would require a major swallowing of pride, given he spurned the team back in 2020 in order to join McLaren – the team they happen to be battling over fourth place in the constructors’ championship with. But that avenue also appears to have closed anyway with the team’s signing of Pierre Gasly.

With Gasly joining their team, Alpine now have two 26-year-old, marketable, race-winning French drivers in their cars with over 200 grands prix of experience between them. Unless Ocon and Gasly suffer an irreparable breakdown in their relationship – and the pair do have a history – it’s difficult to see how Ricciardo will seem like a better option to his old team.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Alfa Romeo have followed a pattern in recent seasons of hiring a veteran driver with plenty of experience racing at the front of the field and pairing them with a promising rookie. As the Sauber team transition out of Alfa Romeo and into a new phase – almost certainly Audi – could Ricciardo be an attractive prospect for 2024?

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Singapore, 2022
Ricciardo could face the same options in 12 months’ time
As ever, Formula 1 is political. Zhou Guanyu has proven to be a more than competent rookie in 2022 and earned a second season with Alfa Romeo next year. But aside from his abilities as a driver, Zhou’s status as the first Chinese driver to race in Formula 1 gives him unique commercial appeal that no other driver on the grid enjoys – with China being a major market of interest to Audi. While Ricciardo continues to be one of the most recognisable and popular characters on the F1 grid, that may not be enough to help him earn a seat with Sauber, especially after a year away.

Had Sebastian Vettel not decided to retire, Aston Martin may have seemed a strong contender for Ricciardo for 2024. However, the team’s surprise signing of Fernando Alonso on a ‘multi-year’ deal beginning next season likely means that the Silverstone team will not be an option.

With Lance Stroll enjoying the privilege of staying with the team for as long as his wishes, Alonso’s seat would be the only realistic opportunity. But even if 2023 proves just as challenging for Aston Martin as 2022 has at times, it’s unlikely Alonso will choose to throw in the towel and depart after one year. His commitment to the team reflects his belief in their long-term growth. So there is little chance that Alonso will give up his pursuit of a championship with Aston Martin before they truly begin reaping the benefits of the heavy investment made into the team.

Naturally, a return to AlphaTauri would make no sense for either Ricciardo, AlphaTauri or the Red Bull junior driver programme, which leaves only Haas and Williams – the only two options still left for 2023. Unless a dramatic shift in performance occurs for either team next season, it’s difficult to see how Haas or Williams will be any more appealing to Ricciardo this time next year than they are right now.

It’s difficult to fathom that these final four rounds of the 2022 season may also be the last four races in the F1 career of one of the most successful and popular drivers of his generation. But unless something dramatic unexpectedly happens over the next 12 months – which can never be ruled out in Formula 1 – it’s hard to see how an opportunity will open up that will entice Daniel Ricciardo back onto the grid in 2024.

View the current list of 2023 F1 drivers and teams

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 F1 season

Browse all 2023 F1 season articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

56 comments on “Why taking a year out in 2023 may not improve Ricciardo’s chances of returning to F1”

  1. I would be surprised if after a year away he came back, if asked about Albon I would have said the same thing. He is too good of a driver to be sitting, but there is a lot of great talent waiting for their F1 chance. He would be better to have 1 year at Haas than to be off the grid.

    1. As for Albon, he’s back because that’s what the Thai side of the fizzy drinks business wanted.

      Maybe Daniel can find an Australian Mining conglomerate to buy him a seat? Then again, there’s that other Aussie in F1 next year, so …

      1. @proesterchen
        No, because he had previous F1 racing experience unlike the other Williams option for this season.

    2. @proesterchen Old gents in F1 typically only get to come back if they’re a World Champion like Alonso or Räikkönen but timing is everything and you never know.

      Albon is still considered young and still fits in with the current young crop doing well in F1 like Russell and Lando, he still has some ramp up and years left that teams could capitalize on, the same of sort of thing for De Vries; none of that could be said for an aging driver none WC driver, after a certain point they just don’t get faster as time goes on. Sadly, I know this from personal experience.

      RIC would have to wait for a unique opportunity to open up like it would have to for Hulkenberg; but for Hulk that it is even less likely gone as time goes on. I could see it being the same thing for RIC. I like RIC and Hulk but F1 is a harsh and cruel world as sponsorship money, youth and recent winning results speaks loudest in F1 unless of course you’re a past world champion.

      1. I would not put Alex in the same group as George and Lando. Alex is so good (or not) that his backers can’t find a seat for him in one of their two teams. Alex is so good (or not) that they chose to take a chance on Nyck rather than call him back even when a seat opened up.

        In contrast to that, George seems to be heading for a Massa (v1.0) sort of career, and we may never know how good (or not) Lando is if he stays with McLaren.

  2. Ricciardo’s done, unless he accepts driving in a clear midfield/backmarker team again.
    He’d be better off shifting to Indy or Super Formula – he’d do well to stand out in a driver-focused series.
    Something that F1 isn’t.

    1. he’d do well to stand out in a driver-focused series

      What makes you think that? He’s been getting pummeled by his teammate for two seasons.

      1. All the more reason to prove himself in a different series, where the only significant differentiator is the driver.

        F1 is always going to be about how well the team/car/driver combination work together – and the team will always sacrifice one driver to improve the other, since they can always change the car to suit a particular driving style.
        What they can’t (won’t) do, is build two fundamentally different cars so that both drivers can be comfortable and able to perform at their best.

        Besides, being beaten by your team-mate in F1 doesn’t necessarily mean very much, as there are always so many factors that contribute.

        1. It does mean a bit to beat or being beaten by your team mate, if you never beat your team mate you will never be champion and in most cases it will be your team mate to move up to a better team when the opportunity comes.

      2. He is “getting pummeled” in a McLaren. If Ricciardo was the only one to note that the McLaren’s are tricky cars, that’d be questionable – but he’s far from. There is something about the design process that makes these cars a handful to drive, and that’s a long-term problem that goes back many years. Norris handles it better, but he’s no fan of the cars either (as per the Norris F1 Beyond the Grid interview).

        Ricciardo is a good driver that would probably do just fine in plenty of other series. He’s hasn’t shown any reason to suspect he’s a generation talent, but he has definitely proven he can handle a wide variety of cars and teammates just fine.

    2. I’d recommend Ricciardo to join Haas.
      It appears Ricciardo has a ranch in the USA and seems to enjoy it there. He would be well marketable for a US team.

      Not the best option car wise, but I guess it’s the only option now and probably in the future.
      (I’d prefer him to rejoin RBR; but that won’t happen.)

      I agree that he might do well in some other series, but not because those are more driver-orientated, but simply because there seems to be less competition at the sharp end (many less rated F1 drivers did remarkably well in Indy in the past).

      1. not because those are more driver-orientated, but simply because there seems to be less competition at the sharp end

        A common misconception – most commonly held by F1 fans.
        Many F1 drivers have driven in many other series, and done exceptionally poorly too.

        As for Ricciardo going to Haas – why would he? It would be a Raikkonen-style move – staying in F1 just for the sake of staying in F1, with no realistic chance of moving forward.
        Raicciardo’s previous form has told everyone what he can do when he’s comfortable in a good car. There’s nothing else to learn about him in F1.

        1. If he performed like at red bull, he wouldn’t have been kicked out by mclaren, going to haas if the car is half decent could allow him to prove himself again, a team leader wants to see the red bull ricciardo, not the mclaren one.

          1. A team leader that wants to see Red Bull Ricciardo rather than McLaren Ricciardo needs to provide the car and team environment that Ricciardo had prior to Verstappen being made priority 1 within the Red Bull team.
            All he was really given at McLaren was money – but money doesn’t make the car/driver combination better.
            At least there was clear improvement throughout his time at Renault….

        2. Raicciardo’s previous form has told everyone what he can do when he’s comfortable in a good car.

          What if Ricciardo isn’t comfortable in the ‘driver-focused series’ you recommended?
          Maybe stick with the devil you know; he seems to be happy in the series.

          1. That’s entirely possible – but he’ll never know if he doesn’t go and give it a shot.
            He could well be a ‘prodigy’ in those cars… He did well in every other series he competed in prior to entering F1, after all.

          2. José Lopes da Silva
            19th October 2022, 19:49

            Getting excuses for “our” driver is part of fans behaviour. There was clearly a conspiracy in Red Bull and then in McLaren. If only he could get comfy.

  3. I don’t know what he’s going to show in a year off that would convince any of the higher ranking teams to pick him up in the future. I think he’s done. He could’ve gone to a smaller team and be in F1 for a bit longer, but I doubt that would put him back in sight of a championship contender either.

    Ultimately, if he wants to stay in F1, I think it’s probably best to negotiate with FOM’s F1TV or Sky for a job in punditry.

  4. It’s a done deal at Haas for Ric ,has been for a month or so ..seems only Zak brown and Ryan Walkinshaw know..it’s the worse kept secret in the paddock.

  5. Presently, his options for 2024 don’t look any better than next season, so perhaps he should accept the Haas opportunity, even if this team is an uninteresting prospect.

    1. I think you might be correct @jerejj. If Haas are remotely interested, and it seems they might be, a year at Haas might allow Daniel to prove his worth again. Of course they are not going to be ultra-competitive but if he could just put in 2 or 3 really good performances, some of the slightly better teams might consider him again.

      A space could arise by someone in a middle ranking team having a bad season or something next year. Then Daniel may be the better option.

  6. Sad to see him without a drive. Don’t forget he’s a race winner and the last with a victory for McLaren while Lando is still waiting for his maiden win. Althoug he didn’t deliver at McLaren I still think he’s better than a Bottas or Magnussen. I guess you need some luck and maybe he lost some of his motivation or he didn’t get all the support he needed. I hope he gets or accepts the seat at Williams next year and proves he is still worth a F1 drive, like Perez he could have some luck and get a seat at a top team again.

    1. Perez never really got a chance at a top team before, he impressed red bull in the last few races enough to finally get a chance after he was risking to be kicked out of f1 unfairly; ricciardo did fine at a top team already ofc, he just needs to show he still has what it takes, so indeed, I also think he should take a backmarker seat.

      1. I was refering to 2013 Perez – McLaren a top team in 2012 but both didn’t deliver in 2013. Personally I rate Daniel higher and feel Perez got really lucky to get the seat for RB. But this is how F1 works you need some luck.

        1. José Lopes da Silva
          19th October 2022, 19:51

          I also rate Ricciardo higher than Perez. Ricciardo was always much closer to Verstappen than Perez is. He was Verstappen’s hardest team mate.
          Unfortunately, he dropped out.

      2. Perez never really got a chance at a top team before

        Everything from their facilities, budget, engine partnership, etc. made the 2013 McLaren team a top team, even if their results didn’t match that term. That sometimes happens. And McLaren were so thoroughly unimpressed by Pérez and his antics that they ditched him at the first available opportunity. It didn’t help that he had a bit of an Ocon-like habit of getting in his teammate’s way.

  7. I simply cannot see anyone paying the number Daniel would want to continue driving. Not after the last two years.

  8. Antonio Giovinazzi third driver’d his way into a full time seat at alfa
    Nyck de Vries just did it with alpha after being in talks with williams
    The reigning F2 champ voluntarily walked away from full time championship contending race seats in Indycar to be a third driver
    Piastri is slated for a multi year Mclaren drive
    Nico Hülkenberg keeps falling ass backwards into a race seat contention third drivering for Aston Martin

    The notion that a year off so much as spells doom for DR is at best frivolous.
    We have hard data that first off, shows the entropy of the driver market circus and secondly how seemingly easier it is getting into F1 as a third driver. Throw in the fact none of these drivers I mentioned nor those who would be available in 2024 have what D.R. has i.e. a disgusting amount of brand cache and goodwill, a proven resume that speaks volumes, and if his Merc deal goes through tangible, knowledgeable, and tactile data of a multiple constructor and driver championship team working as a third driver with them and it REALLY isn’t that hard to see how 2024 could a #homecoming for DR. I mean the marketing side would print money on its own if done right.

    DR is fine, come 2024 he’d be the most reasonable pick for any and all teams dissatisfied with their driver lineup or looking for stability or a galvanizing factor to spearhead development.

  9. He is no Alonso or Kimi to pull that off. And these awful two seasons and Mclaren destroyed his reputation.
    Unless he already have something signed for ’24, which i doubt, he’s done.

    Everybody will be looking for someone younger and fresher, and cheaper, before even considering him.

    1. I would say he has destroyed his own reputation with his driving and his team choices over the last few years. Its not like the mclaren was a terrible car. Best thing for him now would be to go to the States and do Indycar. Win the 500 and become a massive star over there, but yeah, he is no Fernando or Kimi

      1. Don’t see how ricciardo at his best was any worse than raikkonen, at least the one he competed against in the red bull time.

        1. He lacks the marketing value of a world title. And he is being forced to take a sabbatical, whereas Alonso and Kimi chose to step away for a couple of years.

          I can easily see him being successful at IndyCar. He’s already very much a Castroneves-like kind of guy, which they love around there, it would be much better than to be a third driver waiting an opportunity that will never come.

    2. @Edvaldo, Regarding your last point, this should also & even more so be the case with Hulk, without a doubt.

  10. WDCs are your golden ticket – no matter how poorly you perform. That’s why Vettel was still sought after horrible seasons from 2nd half 2018-2020. 4 WDCs and you go out on your own terms.

    The problem with Ricciardo is he thinks he’s in that category, sure he beat Vettel in 2014 and a younger Verstappen but those are ages ago, only world champions can sit a year or more out and come back.

    1. I think ricciardo has been unlucky early on in his career, for example with joining red bull just after it stopped having the best car, he definitely could’ve been a champion in the right circumstances, example in 2014, maybe even 2016 and 2017, considering verstappen was already faster but more mistake prone and a retirement would cost more points than a 2nd vs 1st place.

      1. I wouldn’t call him unlucky. He’s made clumsy choices, worse than Alonso’s because he willingly left a winning team to go to a clear mid-field team.

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        19th October 2022, 20:02

        Several drivers got unlucky and could have been champions throughout F1 history.
        Others got lucky. Nigel Mansell was given the best car of the grid by a margin and a team mate unable to cope with the car characteristics. Fair to Mansell after all the bad luck – but it was luck, in the end.

        Ricciardo could perfectly be a champion and I’m sure lots of drivers are dreaming about doing a Button.

        The question that no one can answer is: why did he fail at McLaren?
        It’s something both him and McLaren don’t have an answer. Please avoid the “lack of comfy environment” talk. Please avoid the “last driver to win for McLaren”; it was nice, but an F1 season is 20+ races, not 1 race.
        And all team principals don’t have an answer too for this mistery.

        I like Ricciardo and to me this is one of the biggest misteries of the last 40 years. What happened? Where did come such a drop? I can only recall Ivan Capelli stint at Ferrari to be such a comparable drop between expectation an reality. But Capelli had not been so much successful as Ricciardo.

        Anything can happen and amazingly it appears but Ricciardo and Hulkenberg and in the mix for the remaining seats – a couple of years after we witnessed Ricciardo “smashing” Hulkenberg’s career. Ricciardo would need a couple of super sub to convince someone that the McLaren mistery is past.

        It is something for F1 researchers. What happened to Ricciardo? We know that Patrese and not the strenght nor the nerve to cope with the FW14B active suspension in fast corners. We know that Raikkonen lost the edge in the tyre monopoly era, starting in 2007. We know that Schumacher in 2012 was just getting old. We know that Yuji Ide was not F1 level. Some say that Vettel was just not suited for the hybrid era and never again showed his edge (like Raikkonen from 2007 onwards).

        What happened to Ricciardo?

  11. He’s not a former champ walking away by choice, like Alonso or Kimi. He’s also not a promising youngster pushed out by his team’s need for a pay driver, like Hulkenberg or Ocon. He’s approaching his mid-30s and has lost his place in F1 for performance-based reasons. That’s not something that you can expect to come back from.

    The best thing he can do now is to do a Valtteri and swallow his pride and accept a role at a lower team. His stock’s already on the floor and sitting a year out won’t magically improve it.

    Either that or just move on to NASCAR or wherever he wants to end up post-F1.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      19th October 2022, 20:05

      “Do a Valtteri”, good point. Jean Alesi did the same, and Coulthard, in some way.

  12. In 2020, RICCIARDO was not fourth, but fifth. In fourth there was a non-top team driver.

    1. Ankita, you seem to have misread the article, because what they are saying is that, on this date two years ago – i.e. on the 18th October 2020 – Ricciardo was 4th in the WDC at that point in time. That is indeed correct – on the 18th October 2020 (i.e. two years ago to the day), Ricciardo was in 4th place in the WDC with a points total of 80 points.

      1. You are right. Apologies.

  13. To me, the rise and fall of Daniel Ricciardo is one of the most remarkable stories in F1 over the last years. Such a likeable character and he’s got the speed, but he’s somehow failing to make the team or even the car his own.

  14. I think it’s a terrible idea. But then I’m not sure it’s by choice either.

    Damn shame, because, personable-wise, he’s clearly my most likable driver there has been for a while IMO.

  15. In just over a year and a half with Ricciardo in their team, McLaren have felt one of the strongest examples of buyer’s remorse any F1 team has ever experienced.

    I can think of a few stronger examples. Most notably McLaren themselves with Nigel Mansell.

  16. I just can’t see why a team would want Daniel in 2024 unless he’s been driving in 2023. He’d be a year behind in experience compared to most of the 19 other drivers on the grid, and he’d be a year behind due to changes in technology. On the other hand, if he does drive in 2023 with Williams or Haas, then he’d be up to date with the changes in technology and he’d be able to prove his ability as a top driver.

    1. @drycrust The same should be even more clearly the case with Hulk, considering he hasn’t done any active racing post-2019, yet people won’t stop pondering about him in driver market matters.

  17. Not sure why Ricciardo would need to ‘reinvent’ himself at a backmarker team. The guy’s driven over 220 Grand Prix and has thus already had a full career. He’s not in the middle of one, he’s at the end. But people still want Hülkenberg to come back for some indecipherable reason, so I suppose experience is as overvalued among fans as it is among team bosses. Unfortunate; as there’s plenty of young and exciting talent out there!

  18. I’m really sorry seeing him leave the sport. As a McLaren fan I really wished he succeeded at the team. Such a good guy.

  19. Put a fork in him as he is done.

  20. I love Ricciardo as a character and i think he’ll be missed on the grid, that laugh and great mood are great, however, i’m not seeing any team wanting to sign him in 2023 and if so 2024 is almost impossible in my opinion…but he brought that to himself…

  21. – Loves the US and has a home there
    – Ferrari engines with the straight line speed MB doesn’t have.
    – Dramatically lowered expectations.
    – Gunther himself said to call him; the interest is there. If the raw salary isn’t good enough than negotiate one of your side businesses (wine, clothing, etc) onto the car.

    If he truly wants to stay in F1 suck it up and take the Haas ride. Taking a year off at a low point is gonna backfire, and I think Haas will actually be good for him.

    1. This is similar to what I have said above but in more detail. If Daniel is serious about staying in F1 he should just try to get the Haas drive for one year. He’s got nothing to lose really and it could work out well in the longer term.

  22. This is a weird article. It covers the prospect of him returning to F1 as if there is no seat available for him now. His chances of returning to F1 next year are 100%. His chances of returning to F1 in 2024 are 100%.

    Whether he will choose to return to F1 or not will be his. It’s just a question of whether he is willing to race in F1 if there’s no chance of winning.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      19th October 2022, 20:09

      “Ricciardo admits he will not be on the F1 grid in 2023” was news a couple of days ago. It came from a 100% reliable source (wink wink). So it’s nice to discuss, even if a door remains open to him.

  23. Join Hass Dan. Pretty please? Everyone wins if you do it…. except Mick…. but meh Mick anyway.

Comments are closed.