McLaren on Wednesday made no mention of Oscar Piastri as the British team confirmed the termination of Daniel Ricciardo’s contract for 2023.
It is believed clearing the way for Alpine defector and reigning Formula 2 champion Piastri is costing McLaren at least $12 million in Ricciardo’s severance fee.
Team CEO Zak Brown, however, was not ready to talk about Piastri.
“Today is about Daniel,” he said on Wednesday.
“We will leave the comments and speculation about who will be next to Lando (Norris) next year to one side. I imagine that everyone wants to understand our plans, but we will announce them in due course.”
Brown said there is no deadline for the announcement, so it could be that it will have to wait for the outcome of any legal wrangling with Alpine.
“I will not take part in any speculation,” team boss Andreas Seidl added when also asked about Australian Piastri, 21. “The subject of the day is Daniel and nothing else.”
It is clear, however, that a confirmed race contract with Piastri is the target, even if that would pit two highly rated and talented young drivers against one another.
“Lando is definitely a superstar in our sport,” Brown said.
“But I see no reason why McLaren can’t have two drivers who are on an equal footing – as is the case with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes. Or with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.”
Rumours of Ricciardo’s departure at the end of the season have been openly bubbling for weeks and months, and even the 33-year-old Australian admitted that his time at McLaren “just hasn’t worked out”.
“The team decided to make a change for next year, we had a lot of discussions but in the end we mutually agreed that it was the right thing for both of us,” he said.
Ricciardo said he is “not sure yet” what he will do next, but he reportedly took a phone call from Haas’ Gunther Steiner last week and has also been linked with a return to Renault-owned Alpine.
Seidl revealed that he and Ricciardo have “spoken” about a move over to McLaren’s Indycar team, but the Australian’s “real desire” is to “stay in F1”.
Brown agreed: “We’re still Daniel Ricciardo fans. If he shows interest (in Indycar), we’re open to talks. But I think his whole focus is currently on Formula 1.”