Daniel Ricciardo has been “dealt a bad hand” by Formula 1, according to the Australian driver’s agent.
Having been bought out of his contract for 2023 as McLaren replaces him with young compatriot Oscar Piastri, Ricciardo had to admit at Suzuka that he will not be on the grid next year.
The last seat he was willing to accept was at Alpine, but the Renault-owned team instead successfully negotiated Pierre Gasly out of his Red Bull deal.
“I knew they were talking for a while and I knew they were very interested in Pierre,” Ricciardo, 33, said.
Indeed, Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer said in Japan that he had talks with Ricciardo.
“At the beginning we discussed with a few drivers, including Daniel, and Pierre meets the criteria that I had to a tee – he’s experienced, fast and young.”
For Ricciardo, it marks the end to his racing career for now.
“I think the reality is now I won’t be on the grid in 2023,” he said. “I think it’s now just trying to set up for ’24. It’s kind of like hitting pause for a little bit.”
He also ruled out switching to another series, like Indycar.
“As fun or cool as it sounds to compete in something else, the truth is that mentally, I’m not there yet,” said Ricciardo.
Ricciardo is now expected to sign up as Mercedes’ reserve driver, with some insiders speculating he wants to be best placed if Lewis Hamilton calls it a day.
Some have questioned the wisdom of Ricciardo’s decision-making since leaving Red Bull, as his career entered a downward spiral at Renault and then McLaren.
His agent, Nick Thimm, denied that “ego” might explain the predicament.
“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.
“It’s a different approach yes, but it’s also a new day for the sport. He’s not done. And as we saw this season, anything can happen.”