McLaren has reportedly told Daniel Ricciardo he will be replaced by compatriot Oscar Piastri next season.
Multiple outlets including Autosport are reporting Piastri has signed a deal with the Woking outfit for 2023, initially as a reserve driver, but then in the race seat to partner with Lando Norris once Ricciardo’s exit is arranged.
Ricciardo is contracted for next year after signing a three-year deal to prompt his exit from Renault (now Alpine) in 2020.
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RacingNews365 reported the FIA’s contract recognition board has validated Piastri’s deal with McLaren, allowing it to supersede the deal Alpine believed it had.
Ricciardo’s future in the sport has been the subject of intense speculation this year due to his ongoing struggles with his machinery, leaving a significant disparity between him and teammate Lando Norris.
Norris currently leads Ricciardo 76-19 in the drivers’ standings.
Publicly McLaren has been supportive of the Australian, with CEO Zak Brown tells Fox Sports last month that Ricciardo would see out his deal with the team, and last month Daniel took to social media to underline his determination to continue until the end of his contract next season.
However, behind closed doors the team has been negotiating a deal with Alpine reserve drives Piastri in a sign it had lost faith in Ricciardo’s ability to turn his season around.
The matter came to a head after the Hungarian Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso abruptly ended negotiations with Alpine in favor of an Aston Martin contract for next season. When Alpine attempted to draft in reserve driver Piastri in his place it found his Mark Webber-led management team to be unresponsive.
Piastri later took to social media to deny he would race for the French constructor next season, making it clear that the rumors of a McLaren move were real.
It’s unclear whether Ricciardo would be seeking a drive at another team and, if so, which teams he would be interested in dealing with.
Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer said earlier this week that he “didn’t think [it would be] an issue at all” to hire Ricciardo in a straight swap with the defected Piastri despite the older Australian having abandoned the French team at the end of 2020.
ESPN has reported that as many as four teams have contacted Ricciardo in recent months to gauge his interest in a change of scenery should he choose to leave McLaren ahead of time.
It’s bittersweet news for Australian Formula 1 fans, with Ricciardo’s loss also meaning Piastri will finally get his full-time F1 promotion after a year on the sidelines as Alpine’s reserve driver.
Piastri is one of his generation’s foremost talents. The 21-year-old Melburnian has been racing for just five and a half years but boasts three titles on his resume, including crowns in Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2 in consecutive years from 2019 to 2021.
Only George Russell and Charles Leclerc boast similarly decorated junior careers, with both winning GP3 and F2 championships in successive years.
He was inducted into the Renault, now Alpine, driver academy in 2020, accelerating his rise — too fast, in fact, for Alpine, which had no F1 seats available this year to promote him into.
He was forced into the reserve driver role this season, and the team intended to loan him to Williams for at least the next two years on the assumption Fernando Alonso would re-sign with the team.
It’s since transpired that Alpine failed to take up its option to renew Piastri’s contract before he became a free agent, which happened to coincide with Alonso’s sudden defection to Aston Martin, thereby freeing him to sign with McLaren.
– with Max Laughton