Daniel Ricciardo appears one step closer to securing his future as reports emerged the Aussie is “an advanced stage” of negotiations to join Mercedes as a reserve driver for next year.
Ricciardo has long coveted a move to Mercedes or Ferrari and although this may not be exactly the way he wanted it, it could prolong his F1 career after a horror run at McLaren.
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French broadcasters Canal+ reported the talks were progressing and continues to turn the rumour mill which has linked the 33-year-old to the bold move.
F1 seats come at a premium and only seats at Williams and Haas appear still available for Ricciardo as reports linking current Mercedes reserve Nick De Vries to a move to Alpha Tauri, which would allow Pierre Gasly to join Alpine emerged recently.
Ricciardo was pictured leaving Mercedes hospitality at the Singapore Grand Prix as the F1 rumour mill kicked into gear.
Aussie great — and the man who masterminded Oscar Piastri’s entry into F1 via Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren — Mark Webber revealed Ricciardo was still tossing up his options.
“I had a good chat to him last night,” Webber said during qualifying in Singapore.
“I still don’t think he’s sure. A Merc reserve driver role? Who knows how long Lewis (Hamilton) is going to go on for? Merc, a pretty handy operation, so it’s something he might consider.”
Last month, Ricciardo was linked to Mercedes as a reserve driver — the powerhouse team’s seats for 2023 are set in stone with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell proving a strong and established partnership.
Ricciardo will no doubt bring experience to the role but suggestions he could be positioned to take over from the 37-year-old Lewis Hamilton have raged, despite denials from the man himself as well as Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Wolff revealed Hamilton said he has five more years left in F1.
“We are totally transparent with each other,” Wolff told Channel 4 on the weekend.
“We talk about the future also, and I think it’s very easy. Lewis will be the first one to say ‘I can’t do this anymore because I feel I haven’t got the reactions anymore, or I’ve just lost fun doing it and there is another generation growing up that’s just very strong’.
“So I have no doubt that whatever we agree on a contract extension, which is going to happen, that we both are always going to discuss very openly ‘what does the future hold?’
“The advantage is we speak a lot together, he lives here and I’m there [in Monaco]. And just last week we sat down and he says ‘well, I have another five years in me. How do you see that?’
“I mean, he’s the shining star in Formula 1 on and off track. I think we would lose the greatest personality Formula 1 ever had.”
Hamilton has won seven world titles, the equal most of all-time alongside Michael Schumacher.
He also told Ricciardo to his face last month he wasn’t going anywhere.
“For years we’ve going around, up-and-down with stories of retirement, stopping,” said the Briton.
“For me, I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt. I’m feeling fit, I love what I’m doing. And I don’t plan on stopping any time soon – sorry buddy (to Ricciardo).
“But, my goal was always to be with Mercedes since I signed with them in 1997.
“I love that we have the long partnership we have. I feel like we are embarking on a lot of really positive things – not only in the sport, but outside.
“And I think there’s a lot to accomplish together.
“So, I want to be a part of that. I think I’ll always be with Mercedes – till the day I die. I feel like I can race for quite a bit longer. I’ll potentially be steering towards that.”
He also said Ricciardo deserved to be on the grid.
But as Ricciardo wants to compete and only backmarkers seem to be in play, it’d be hard to turn down a chance to join the F1 powerhouse.