Ricciardo denies he is about to quit F1

Daniel Ricardo

Daniel Ricciardo has taken to social media to reaffirm his intention to stay in Formula 1 with McLaren until at least the end of 2023.

The Australian has become the center of speculation ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix following comments from Zak Brown that the relationship had failed to live up to expectations.

It’s a view that Ricciardo shares, accepting the criticism that is due to him while affirming throughout his commitment to the team, who in turn have expressed their commitment to him.

Improved performance thereafter eased the pressure, but difficulties again at Silverstone and Austria, coupled with team testing for IndyCar race winner Colton Herta, again sparked speculation.

“There have been lots of rumors surrounding my future in Formula 1, but I want you to hear it from me,” Ricciardo wrote on Twitter.

“I’m committed to McLaren until the end of next year and I’m not stepping away from the sport.

“I appreciate that it hasn’t always been easy, but who wants easy!

“I’m working hard with the team to make improvements and get the car back to where it needs to be.

“I still want this more than ever. See you soon at Le Castellet.

McLaren’s driver roster is somewhat hazy, with the wider company offering entries in Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E (from next season) and ExtremeE.

Ricciardo is partnered with Lando Norris in F1’s flagship team, while Pato O’Ward is partnered with Felix Rosenqvist at McLaren SP this year in his IndyCar effort.

Today the team announced the signing of last year’s IndyCar Series winner, Alex Palou, but curiously did not specify which competition the Spaniard would be competing in.

Rosenqvist is expected to join the Formula E team next year, a competition in which he is already a three-time race winner, paving the way for Palou alongside O’Ward.

Meanwhile, McLaren has a test deal with Colton Herta, who was in action Monday and Tuesday at Portimao driving a 2021 MCL35M.

The precise motives why Herta was entered into a test program are unclear, although it should be noted that McLaren do not have a traditional reserve driver.

Instead, it has access to a driver pool through an agreement with engine partner Mercedes, and Oscar Piastri through a separate agreement with Alpine.

Will Stevens, who previously raced for Caterham and Marussia in F1, supports the team off the track but now mainly plies his trade in sports cars.

With the requirement to field a ‘rookie’ driver in Free Practice 1 at two events during the Formula 1 season, McLaren are in a tough spot.

There is little value in using a Mercedes driver for the sessions, nor indeed Piastri given that Alpine and McLaren are locked in the battle for fourth place in the constructors’ title.

There may be a commercial aspect to fielding O’Ward or Herta, something that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown is no doubt aware of, which could explain why both IndyCar drivers have had opportunities in F1 .

However, both have limited experience driving Grand Prix machines, suggesting they pose an immediate threat to the somewhat outlandish Ricciardo.

So far, Herta has only had two days of testing in a 2021-spec machine, and O’Ward just one day of operation.

Neither are yet ready to enter F1 and, if they did, they could not reasonably be expected to perform at the same level as Ricciardo.

A man who could be Piastri, although that would require some business magic given his ties to Alpine, which the French team are unlikely to break free.

While there is no doubt that Ricciardo’s form has been uneven, the fact remains that there are few, if any, riders on the market who could confidently and realistically expect to be delivered at the same level.

As such, it would be a significant risk for McLaren to change drivers now, at a time when the team is looking for stability as it struggles to understand the new regulations.

Beyond 2023 is another matter, there are ample opportunities to test, assess and develop a potential replacement during that time, if that is the direction McLaren wants to take.

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