Toto Wolff may have dropped a major hint about the identity of Mercedes’ next official reserve driver in Mexico.
After weeks of leaving the door open, Daniel Ricciardo finally confirmed last weekend that he will “not be on the grid in 2023”.
He will, however, “keep my foot in the door” in view of a potential 2024 return. “I’m obviously talking to some teams but nothing is fixed yet,” the 33-year-old Australian added.
Initially, it was reported that Mercedes – looking to replace the Alpha Tauri-bound Nyck de Vries – was Ricciardo’s main target. But then team boss Wolff indicated that Red Bull is also in the running.
F1-insider.com, however, has now revealed photos of Wolff wearing a jumper belonging to Ricciardo’s personal officially-licensed collection.
Ricciardo said: “I gave George (Russell) a sweater from my collection and Toto wrote to me afterwards to say that he really like it.
“So I said ‘you’ll get one too’.”
Wolff confirmed: “I’m promoting his merchandise now. No, seriously, I really like it.
“They took a picture of me with the silly sunglasses as well and put it online. I didn’t expect it to end up on the internet or social media because that probably wasn’t my best moment.”
According to F1 veteran Nico Hulkenberg, Ricciardo may well enjoy his year off the grid.
“I’m happy for him that after these tough years, he’s having a better moment again,” said the German, referring to Ricciardo’s impressive race in Mexico.
“I think after these two turbulent years, he’s glad that he’s now getting out for a year and can sort himself out,” Hulkenberg told Servus TV. “Knowing him and seeing his body language, I think he needs to get away from this Formula 1 rat race.”