Analysis: The F1 options for Daniel Ricciardo in 2024
By Ian Parkes
Friday 7th April, 2023 - 4:00am
Daniel Ricciardo recently dropped the first broad hint he is ready to return to F1 in 2024.
Ricciardo has only been off the grid for four months and missed the first three grands prix of this season.
But his comments in a select media interview over the course of the Australian Grand Prix weekend – that included Speedcafe – remarked that “the signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid” for next year.
But where could Ricciardo end up?
Well, it is safe to say he will not be returning to McLaren, of course, not after the team terminated the 33-year-old’s contract with a year still remaining on a three-season deal.
Despite talks with interested parties in and beyond F1, Ricciardo opted for a year on the sidelines, pitching up as reserve with former team Red Bull to see if the fire that was doused at McLaren would again burn bright.
It seems the spark is there, so Speedcafe takes a look at the options.
So let’s start with Red Bull.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen is contracted through to 2028 and Sergio Perez has a deal that takes in next season.
Team principal Christian Horner recently indicated that with both of his drivers under contract, Ricciardo was not an option.
But if McLaren can terminate a deal early, why not Red Bull, too?
Of course, this would take a serious downturn in form from Perez, or a major disagreement with the team, Verstappen, or both, for Ricciardo to suddenly come under consideration.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility, but undoubtedly a long shot, and it is a similar story at Mercedes.
After joining the team at the start of last year, George Russell is on a long-term agreement which, you would assume, incorporates next season, or was at least a two-plus-one option, with Mercedes extremely unlikely to curtail it at the end of this year.
As for Lewis Hamilton, well, the seven-time F1 champion is, as we all know, out of contract this season, with negotiations under way between the 38-year-old and team principal Toto Wolff over an extension.
Hamilton has given every indication he wants to stay, and providing money remains no object to Mercedes, expect confirmation at some point soon the British driver will be remaining in situ for the time being.
Ferrari is seemingly a non-starter, with both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz with the Scuderia for next season, and it is highly inconceivable it would opt for a change.
Likewise with Aston Martin, bearing in mind Fernando Alonso has a deal in place for 2024, and is performing wonders anyway at the start of what is the final chapter of his F1 career, whilst Lance Stroll will always be virtually fireproof given he is the son of the owner.
In fairness, given he broke both wrists in pre-season training, Stroll has delivered strong drives so far this season, and on current evidence would be worthy of retaining anyway.
Middle of the pack
So if the four teams above are all seemingly off the table, and after earlier removing McLaren from the equation, we move on to those currently sitting mid-grid.
Esteban Ocon is another driver who has a contract through to the end of next year, whilst Alpine signed team-mate Pierre Gasly on a multi-year deal from AlphaTauri over the winter.
It is known that Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer held talks with Ricciardo following his release from McLaren before opting to pursue Gasly once he became available.
Again, stranger things have happened, but a return to the Enstone-based team he served for two years when it was known as Renault also does not appear to be an option.
Haas, however, cannot be dismissed as easily.
Ricciardo was linked with the team at the end of last season, and it is now known Guenther Steiner at least took the time to find out what terms were being sought.
In discussing the situation with Kevin Magnussen, Steiner delivered another of his immortal comments when he said Ricciardo was after “10 f***ing million! Minimum!”
Whether Ricciardo now comes cheaper after a year out is unknown but it is likely a seat is available at the end of this year, and Steiner has not ruled out potential talks.
Magnussen is on a multi-year contract after returning at the start of last season, believed to be a two-plus-one, with the option for next season.
The details surrounding new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s agreement have never come to light but Steiner recently stated he is certainly giving the pairing every option to prove themselves.
The intriguing one is Alfa Romeo, which loses that moniker at the end of this year due to Audi taking over the Sauber organisation from 2026.
Valtteri Bottas is another driver on a multi-year contract, which Speedcafe understands includes next year.
Team-mate Zhou Guanyu is likely the more vulnerable of the pair as he is out of contract this season, so if Audi is keen to bankroll a high-earner such as Ricciardo prior to its entry in three years’ time, this may be one door open for Ricciardo.
Back of the grid
As for Williams and AlphaTauri, only Alex Albon would appear to be safe as he also has a multi-year contract, signed in August last year.
Team-mate Logan Sargeant has made a reasonable start to his rookie campaign yet he still has much to learn and to prove, not easy given new Williams team principal James Vowles has already made clear his faces a long-term project given what he discovered about the infrastructure – or lack of it – behind the scenes since joining from Mercedes.
It is hard to see Ricciardo, knowing if he did return he arguably does not have too many years ahead of him, would want to pitch up here.
At present, Williams and AlphaTauri have only scored a point apiece, with the latter again seemingly struggling with its concept which has made it difficult for another rookie in Nyck de Vries to adapt and show his talent.
If anything, if De Vries is to be given time to prove himself – and we all know how much of a trigger finger Helmut Marko possesses – then Yuki Tsunoda is arguably more in the firing line.
This is the Japanese driver’s third season with the team, and whilst there has been improvement over that period, it has never seemingly been enough to prove he is worthy of a promotion to Red Bull.
Joining AlphaTauri would at least allow Ricciardo to remain in the family, with potentially an eye on a return to Red Bull in 2025 if the team opted not to renew Perez’s contract.
That could be enough of a carrot to entice him back, even if it did mean a potential year of struggle with the Faenza-based squad.
On review, and at this early stage, you would have to say if Ricciardo is on the grid again in 2024, Haas, Sauber, and AlphaTauri are the three frontrunners.
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