Since making his debut at the 2011 British Grand Prix with the HRT team, Daniel Ricciardo quickly ascended the ranks to become a globally recognised name within the sport. Just a few years ago, a sport like Formula One was considered relatively niche; pushed to the margins of the wider sporting world and attracting only those with a penchant for fast cars or the kind of disposable income that frequenting the global events was done with ease. But thanks to the success of Drive to Survive and personalities as hilarious and charming as that of Ricciardo, the sport has become a global phenomenon with audiences understanding just how skilled and fit those in the driver’s seat need to be to perform at such a standard.
For Ricciardo, the Aussie wasted no time in establishing himself with two grand prix wins to his name. But as any sport fan will know, where there are triumphs, there are moments of great despair and loss. And for Ricciardo, the latter part of 2022 has largely seen him struggle through a slump. After two years of underperformance, Ricciardo was let go from the McLaren team.
Following his departure, it seemed likely that he would land a spot at Apline. Though Ricciardo is reported to have been involved in early talks with the team after receiving his mid-season break notice, the Renault-backed squad had reservations about rehiring him after his decision to walk out on it in 2020. It was then announced that the team had hired Pierre Gasly from AlphaTauri on a multiyear contract.
What remains then, are just uncompetitive seats at Haas and Williams, a reality that has prompted Ricciardo to speak out and admit he won’t be racing in 2023. Talking to reporters in Tokyo, Ricciardo seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be returning to the driver’s seat for the 2023 season, saying: “I think the reality is now I won’t be on the grid in 2023. I think it’s now just trying to set up for 2024.”
The sentiment was echoed by Ricciardo’s manager, Nick Thimm, who insisted that this is not the end of the Aussie star’s career. “None of this is about ego, unachievable demands, or a sudden lack of opportunity,” he said.
“This is about a man who was dealt a bad hand, now finding the right next opportunity. Uncovering a new project where he can work with a team that embraces his unique set of skills. A project where his experience can be applied. A process where he can reset and show his love for the game. And ultimately put himself in the best position to show the world what he’s capable of should he be given the chance. It’s a different approach yet, but it’s also a new day for the sport.”
Thimm added, “Daniel’s maturity and experience is matched by few on the grid; now more than ever. The honey badger will still be as close to the F1 grid as he can in 2023. He’s not done. And as we saw this season, anything can happen.”
Ricciardo added, “To be honest, the Gasly news I was aware of. I knew they were talking for a while and I know though they were very interested in Pierre. Let’s say I was prepared for that and [it was] no surprise, so we were trying to navigate our way around that and figure out what was next.”
In recent times, Ricciardo’s results have been disappointing – not merely for fans but for the driver who expects so much from himself – and not surprisingly, many have been quick to write him off, wondering if he might walk away from the sport entirely. But as Ricciardo has assured, he’s never one to walk away from something when tested and now, more than ever, he’ll need to give the sport everything he can to get back to that place we’ve all become so accustomed to seeing him.
“Sure, it could open up opportunities to maybe do some of that stuff [in other categories], but if I feel it’s going to deviate away from my target, then I will still say it’s not really where I’m looking. As fun or cool as it sounds to compete in something else, the truth is mentally I’m not there yet,” he said.
“I’m still so, so engaged in this, and I think a bit of time off out of a seat will probably do me good. I would probably use that as opposed to trying to jump in something else and stay busy in a different category.”