With Daniel Ricciardo set for a year on the sidelines in the hope of landing a competitive seat in 2024, former World Champion Jenson Button has admitted “I really struggle to see him” doing that.
Ricciardo’s contract with McLaren is being ended a year early at the end of this season after two largely troubled years with the team, the popular Australian having struggled to match his team-mate Lando Norris for much of the past two seasons.
Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri has been lined up to take his compatriot’s place for 2023 at McLaren and with an absence of seats available towards the front of the field, Ricciardo acknowledged he is likely to prefer a year off the grid to gather himself again over accepting a drive in slower machinery – admitting he is set to turn down a seat at Haas for next year.
Ricciardo’s 2023 plans are a subject of much speculation, but the 33-year-old has said he hopes to take time to recover and plot a path back to a competitive seat in 2024.
But drives at the current front-running teams are unavailable beyond next season already, with most drivers at the front tied into multi-year deals.
Former McLaren driver and 2009 World Champion Button thinks the team made the right choice in ending their relationship with Ricciardo early, but knows a path back to the grid for the eight-time race winner will not be a simple one.
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“I think the move by Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO] and McLaren is the right move. Most of this season Daniel hasn’t been on the pace of Lando and quite a bit off at times, so it’s the right move for the team,” Button explained on Sky Sports’ Any Driven Monday.
“For Daniel, it’s a tricky situation. I guess he didn’t want to drop too far down the grid and work with a team that’s more towards the rear because it’s difficult for a driver coming from a team that is almost winning races at times to suddenly know you’re fighting for points.
“It’s tough, but I still think it would have been a better move for him. Go into a team, work hard, show people what you can do in a car that maybe suits you a bit more, and then people forget what happened the year before.
“That’s the issue now, people forget how good Ricciardo is because he’s had such a difficult year-and-a-half or two years.
“But he has the talent and in a car that suits him, he would show his skill and then he has the opportunity to race in a top team again. But sitting out? People just remember what happened last year.
“It’s a tricky one and I really struggle to see him coming back to a competitive team after having a year out.”