Australia’s fading star of Formula One, Daniel Riccardo, is about to be dropped by the McLaren team in favour of his highly-rated countryman Oscar Piastri, according to multiple Grand Prix sources.
Embattled Australian Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo – who has more often than not been outpaced by his younger teammate since a switch to McLaren 18 months ago – has reportedly been given his marching orders by the British team and will vacate his seat at the end of this season a year before his contract expires, multiple Formula One insiders are reporting.
News of the impending switch emerged yesterday in Europe at the end of a tumultuous week in Formula One that saw four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel announce his retirement, and two-time champion Fernando Alonso switch from Alpine to Aston Martin to replace Vettel in 2023.
Rising Australian star Oscar Piastri, 21, has been linked to a number of spots on the F1 grid next year, including the possibility he could replace Ricciardo.
It is worth noting Ricciardo’s shock switch is for now unsubstantiated speculation – and the driver has repeatedly stated he is contracted to McLaren until the end of 2023 – however the widespread coverage overnight has been reported by seasoned F1 journalists with impeccable contacts in the sport.
The Renault-owned Alpine squad thought it could promote Piastri from reserve driver to its full-time squad for next year as Alonso’s replacement, but the 21-year-old Australian quickly denied the move as he became the subject of rumours about a transfer to McLaren for 2023.
The next step in the saga, first reported by www.racingnews365.com citing sources in Australia, has Ricciardo on the way out after receiving the news of his sacking a year early by McLaren with — most likely — his fellow Australian arriving to take his place alongside highly-rated British driver Lando Norris.
Although it is unclear at this stage, an early termination of Ricciardo’s services at McLaren could still see him paid the balance of his contract to the end of 2023 – reportedly close to $AU20 million – while earning a salary at his next job, if he can secure a seat on the F1 grid.
Nothing official has been said yet by McLaren, despite widespread reporting of Ricciardo’s likely departure from the team.
The dispute over Piastri could still be decided by the Contract Recognitions Board, which is responsible for adjudicating on disputes between drivers and teams in Grand Prix racing.
In the past, former world champion Jenson Button was the focus of a contract dispute involving the then-Benetton team and Williams that was only decided by the Board – and Alpine currently believes it has a deal for 2023 with Piastri.
What appears certain is Riccardo’s early departure from McLaren with a multi-million dollar payout and his search for a fresh spot in Formula One.
The eight-time Formula One winner – who last year delivered McLaren’s first victory since 2012 – has significantly under-performed since joining McLaren, despite claiming the 2021 Italian Grand Prix for the team, and has been consistently slower than Norris in qualifying and behind him at the finish of Grand Prix races this year.
Ricciardo’s only likely F1 option is at Alpine, but that could be problematic as he took a giant paycheck — believed to be more than $30 million a year — to move to the Renault factory team from Red Bull Racing in 2019, and then jumped out of the squad after only two years to move to McLaren where he is today.
Still, a return to the French-owed team would solve a lot of problems for both Ricciardo and Alpine.
Full details of the Piastri move are yet to emerge, but his manager — fellow Australian and past Grand Prix winner Mark Webber — is one of the key players and has apparently been looking for the best team to take the highly-regarded Piastri into Formula One.
Webber’s connections — McLaren’s team manager Andreas Seidl, who headed Porsche’s Le Mans racing program when the Aussie was driving for the German sports car company, is one — are key players in the story.
Another is Webber’s one-time manager — former Grand Prix team owner and Formula One power player Flavio Briatore — according to the best background information on the developing story.
The world’s oldest motorsport publication, Motorsport magazine in the UK, has reported all the latest driver movements and the inside workings of Formula One — often described as the ‘Piranha Club’.
But there is still plenty to come as the three Australian musketeers of Formula One — Ricciardo, Piastri and Webber — continue their dealings over the summer break in this year’s Grand Prix schedule.