The worst kept secret in Formula 1 is the fact that McLaren wants to replace Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo for the 2023 season with compatriot Oscar Piastri.
That presents two problems for the Woking-based team, firstly the fact that Alpine claims it has Piastri under contract, and more significantly for McLaren, Ricciardo already has a deal for 2023 which he has said he intends to honour.
Ricciardo’s deal is believed to be worth in the region of $21 million for next season, the third and final year of his McLaren contract.
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“It’s generally not met his or our expectations, as far as what we were expecting,” McLaren boss Zak Brown said earlier this year, when asked about Ricciardo’s results.
“I don’t want to get into the contract, but there are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other, and mechanisms in which we’re not.”
Those “mechanisms” are believed to be an option in Ricciardo’s favour, leaving the team with a situation where Ricciardo is firmly ensconced in the seat it apparently wants to give to Piastri.
Daniel Ricciardo in action earlier this year. (Getty)
Ricciardo hasn’t said anything publicly since the Piastri story blew up in the early hours of Wednesday, when the 21-year-old said he would not be driving for Alpine in 2023, shortly after the team named him as Fernando Alonso’s replacement.
Last month, amid speculation Ricciardo would quit the sport, he stated he intended to see out the third year of his McLaren deal, a partnership that has so far failed to really gel, with teammate Lando Norris consistently outperforming the Australian.
But there’s another option, and it could be quite expensive for McLaren. In 2010, Ferrari paid Kimi Raikkonen around $20 million not to drive, something McLaren could do with Ricciardo in 2023.
Oscar Piastri has been linked to Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren. (Getty)
That situation had echoes of the Piastri-Ricciardo mess. Raikkonen had a contract with Ferrari for 2010, who then signed Alonso in his place. Left with three drivers (Felipe Massa was also under contract) and only two cars, Ferrari was forced to pay Raikkonen for the 2010 season, without the Finn turning a wheel in anger.
Speaking to Sky Sports at last month’s French Grand Prix, Ricciardo gave no indication that he was ready to step aside.
“I know what I’ve got. I know my future. I know my contract,” he said.
“Bad days are sometimes the best days because it ignites a fire in my gut.
“Give me a winning car and I’ll win. That’s the challenge for myself and McLaren.”
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