Grim reality facing Ricciardo after McLaren axing

Daniel Ricciardo says he’s “not sure what lies ahead” after announcing he’ll leave McLaren at the end of the 2022 season.

The Australian had a year left to run on his contract, but said “the team decided to make a change” with compatriot Oscar Piastri widely expected to partner Lando Norris at the Woking-based outfit.

Ricciardo’s time at McLaren has failed to deliver the expected results – his Monza victory last year notwithstanding – and his social media message pointedly made no reference to continuing in F1, although he said he still loves the sport.

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But despite his underwhelming results at McLaren, Ricciardo is still likely to attract interest from other F1 teams. With eight wins and 223 race starts under his belt, the 33-year-old remains an attractive proposition for the midfield teams.

His most likely destination is Alpine, who announced Piastri as Fernando Alonso’s replacement in early August, only to have the young Australian publicly reject the offer, slamming the door shut with a social media message that ended with: “I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

Alpine has flagged a willingness to take Piastri to court to enforce what it believes is a legally binding contract, while the matter is further complicated by the fact that Ricciardo abandoned the Alpine team in early 2020 in favor of McLaren, although management changes at the team since then will likely make it easier for him to rejoin the Enstone outfit.

Alpine have made it clear Piastri is their preferred driver to partner Esteban Ocon, which means Ricciardo may have to wait for that mess to be cleaned up before confirming a return to the team.

Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams are all yet to finalize their driver line-ups for 2023, and could potentially make a play for the Australian.

A switch to the American IndyCar series also remains a possibility, as 1980 world champion Alan Jones pointed out in a column for Wide World of Sports recently.

“He’s got a house in Los Angeles, he loves America, so IndyCar is definitely an option for him,” Jones wrote.

“The money’s good, not as good as Formula 1, but certainly good, and the racing is competitive.

“All the cars are pretty much identical except for the engines, and even the different engines have roughly the same horsepower. It’s a good category where driver talent means a lot.”

Expanding on his split with McLaren, Ricciardo said he leaves with fond memories of his time at Woking, despite the disappointing results.

“We had a lot of discussions but in the end we mutually decided it was the best thing for both of us. I will continue to do the rest of this year, absolutely, and I’ll continue to give it my all,” he said.

“From a result point of view, for sure, consistently to get the results and the form that I was after it wasn’t always there and it was tough. I felt those absolutely. But I also have many happy memories of my time at the team.

“I think about Monza, I think about standing on the top step, I think about bringing the team their first win since 2012. That sort of stuff was awesome, to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and to be in that moment. That’s something I’ll never forget so there is a lot of good stuff to take from this as well.”

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