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Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren 2023 contract, news, future, Aston Martin

After months of swelling speculation, Daniel Ricciardo — with renewed backing from McLaren — has become far more forceful about his F1 future in recent weeks.

He’s insisted that he’s going no where, and then insisted again as the question continues to pop up.

His strongest denial came just hours after Sebastian Vettel announced on Thursday that he will be retiring at season’s end, thus vacating a potentially lucrative seat at Aston Martin.

Unsurprisingly, given his stature and troubles at McLaren, Ricciardo’s name was one of the first to be linked to the seat — but he says that’s not an option.

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Daniel Ricciardo insists he’s not leaving McLaren.Source: AFP

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“Obviously, it’s nothing against that (Aston Martin) but as I said last week, my future is clear and it’s here (at McLaren),” Ricciardo said.

He has been in-step with the McLaren hierarchy, which has publicly recommitted to Ricciardo after a hiccup earlier in the season.

“He’s committed, and we are committed from our side,” team principal Andreas Seidl said.

McLaren chief Zak Brown told Fox Sports earlier this month that the team is “totally committed” to unlocking Ricciardo’s full potential at the team.

“I know he can win us more races, we’re trying unbelievably hard,” he said. “But given his resume of him and how Lando’s going, do we expect him to be right next to Lando, whether that’s right in front or right behind? Yeah, and so does he.

“And we’re going to get there. We’re totally committed to it.”

At this point, however, all we have is the word of Ricciardo, and that of his pay masters.

And while we have absolutely no reason to doubt the word of either, generally speaking, talk is cheap when it comes to driver contracts.

After all, most include break clauses—which we already know exist in Ricciardo’s contract after Brown let the cat out of the bag earlier in the year.

Speaking in May after a troubling start to the season, Brown said of Ricciardo’s deal: “There are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other, and mechanisms in which we’re not.

“I spoke with Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results that we both hoped for, but we’re both going to continue to push.”

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The reality is that with a high-profile drive — in terms of exposure and money, not speed — on offer, and Ricciardo at the center of silly season speculation, his name is unlikely to go unspoken.

That will be a source of frustration for the Australian, who’s already showing signs of slight agitation.

“Did you hear any of my interviews last week, Crofty?” he asked Sky Sports’ David Croft in Hungary when asked about switching seats.

It was said with a smile, as most Ricciardo answers are, but make no mistake, he is weary talking about his future.

This is not where he saw himself — not when he first left Red Bull in 2018, not when he leapt from Renault in 2020, and not at the start of this year, which was meant to be the turning point of his three-year McLaren stint.

That stint has now just hit the halfway mark with far more pain to write about than glory.

Fitting that just one more race — in Hungary on Sunday (11pm AEST) — brings the 2022 mid-season break and a chance for the 33-year-old to reflect.

There are potentially 34 races left in Ricciardo’s current McLaren contract, and he will not want them to be as torturous as most of his past 34.

Those 34 races have seen him finish outside of the top-10 17 times, including eight times in this year’s 12 events.

Lando Norris has been consistently the quicker driver while 2022’s sweeping regulation changes have not delivered the clean slate promised to Ricciardo, whose driving style has been at odds with McLaren’s loose front-end.

Ricciardo told Fox Sports that the “DNA” of 2021’s challenger still exists in its successor, thus leaving him still playing catch-up.

In a promising sign, Ricciardo has been far closer to Norris’ race-pace in the past two Grand Prix as he eyes a strong back-half of 2022.

It’s worth noting that the mid-season refresh worked wonders last year for Ricciardo, who came back from the break with four top-five finishes in six races, including his incredible win at Monza.

The mid-season break might bring Ricciardo the opportunity to escape again, but it also brings a time for business, and plenty of it.

This is the time of year that, with the racing on hold, contract negotiations and future planning can take over. It’s common for driver moves to either be confirmed, or put in place, during these four weeks.

You can bet that Aston Martin’s top brass will be busy during the break, canvassing potential replacements for Vettel from 2023.

Sebastian Vettel will resign from F1 at the end of the season.Source: AFP

Ricciardo’s signature will be a tough one for the underperforming motor giant to acquire. The contracted Australian is adamant about making it work at McLaren, and it’s unlikely he will want to embark on a third mid-team project in the space of five years.

That said, Aston Martin is a big brand and, as such, is unlikely to settle for anything other than a big name, which Ricciardo is. With Vettel off the books, it’s plausible that Aston Martin could put together an enticing offer for Ricciardo financially.

Nonetheless, Fernando Alonso also fits the bill of an experienced big-name and, unlike Ricciardo, is actually out of contract for next season.

At 41 years old, however, a new project may not appeal to Alonso either — which is why Mick Schumacher’s name is being spoken about.

While unproven at F1 level himself, the son of seven-time world champion Michael undoubtedly has the stardom Aston Martin will be looking for, with the added benefit of being a long-term prospect with great potential. There’s also a neat affinity with his father, who made his debut at Jordan before it became Aston Martin two decades later.

So, where does this leave Ricciardo?

Lando Norris has placed the pressure on Ricciardo.Source: Getty Images

What we do know is that there are two-way mechanisms in his contract that would allow him to leave, or for the team to get rid of him.

Exactly what criteria must be met for either outcome is unclear, but it’s unlikely that with 10 races remaining this season, the book can be completely slammed shut on changes for 2023.

That is, if Ricciardo shocks by regressing further, or if McLaren implodes and becomes a backmarker in the final 10 races, it’s hard to see the pair still together next season.

Those outcomes are extremely unlikely, but this weekend’s Hungarian GP remains key in terms of the mood heading into the silly season proper.

Whatever happens at the Hungaroring will stew for a month of future planning, so it’s in Ricciardo’s best interest to continue his upward trend of recent weeks.

If most workers have mid-year performance reviews, it’s likely Ricciardo does, too. What his will say wo n’t read well despite his best efforts.

He’s been somewhat blindsided by the McLaren development path that has (perhaps inadvertently) favored the team’s old quirks that have notoriously worked against his aggressive cornering style.

On the other hand, McLaren will be disappointed that Ricciardo has failed to adapt sufficiently in one-and-a-half seasons while being paid big money.

Either way, it’s become increasingly likely that the partnership extends into its third year, while McLaren continues to blood potential replacements from 2024 through its testing program.

The Hungarian GP is therefore not make-or-break for Ricciardo, although those prospects will look even brighter to McLaren during the recess with a poor showing.

With Vettel’s departure, however, a two-way street allowing Ricciardo to place some pressure back on McLaren, could form.

He may not be interested in a switch now, but McLaren’s up-and-down performances could ultimately provide the straw to break the camel’s back.

As such, no one should be counting their chickens before they hatch for 2023 just yet.

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