Jolyon Palmer ‘surprised’ Daniel Ricciardo is smiling about potential F1 reserve role

Thomas Maher
Daniel Ricciardo with a quirky look. Belgium August 2022

Jolyon Palmer has questioned why Daniel Ricciardo appears to be happy about a rumoured reserve driver role in 2023, after passing up apparent racing options.

Ricciardo is yet to confirm his plans for 2023, after McLaren bought him out of his contract following two years of lacklustre performances alongside Lando Norris.

Ricciardo appeared to have the option of making a switch to a lower-midfield team, such as Haas or Williams, while there also appeared to be an option to engage Alpine in talks to replace the departing Fernando Alonso.

But Ricciardo appears to have eschewed any open cockpit for 2023, with the only confirmed vacant cockpit being at Haas – a seat Ricciardo has taken no interest in.

Instead, Ricciardo appears keen to take a year off from racing in order to pursue a reserve driver role with either Mercedes or Red Bull, his former team, with Toto Wolff revealing the Australian is currently discussing the position with more than one outfit.

Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast, Palmer appeared as a guest alongside Damon Hill when the 1996 F1 World Champion suggested Ricciardo had a smile back on his face last time out in Mexico.

“I’m surprised he’s smiling all that much about that, to be honest,” Palmer bluntly said in response.

“Given that Daniel Ricciardo is the guy that is there racing in the way that he did in Mexico, and he’s charging through the field and he’s chucking in some lunges. He loves the wheel-to-wheel racing of it. It was so good to see a spring in his step after that Grand Prix and I think it’d be really important to him that he goes out with these next two in that tone because then, when you’ve got a year on the sidelines, you can think back to that and not your terrible nine months before.”

Jolyon Palmer: Would a top team really put Daniel Ricciardo in a seat?

With Ricciardo’s thinking seemingly that he would be positioning himself in the shop window as a potential replacement if a seat opened up at one of the leading teams, Palmer questioned the logic of it.

“The third driver thing is strange to me,” he said.

“Are you putting Daniel in if Lewis does suddenly retire next year, having won the title? I don’t think you are.

“Let’s face it, McLaren aren’t putting him in, Alpine didn’t want him and Mercedes, at the top end fighting for titles… are they going to want to put him in at the end of the two years that he’s had? I don’t think so.

“So I think the way that he rebuilds his career from here, is to be on the grid and get results. You can’t get results as a third driver, that’s really frustrating thing of it.”

Is Daniel Ricciardo demoralised after two largely poor years?

Both Palmer and Hill agreed that Ricciardo should have just taken the open seat with Haas, if the possibility had ever been a legitimate one for him, with the former Renault driver saying that it’s possible Ricciardo just needed time away from the cut and thrust of the sport in order to lick his wounds.

“Because I’m not Daniel, I don’t know what is going on in his head and after, certainly this year, of just being beaten and slightly humbled really by [Lando] Norris and McLaren in the vibe of the whole team clearly going against him and they bought his contract out early,” he said.

“I know from my experience of being dropped basically by Renault, you know, it’s a little bit demoralising. Maybe he’s a bit done with it, he wants a bit of time out and he wants to just relax for the first time in over a decade in his career.

“So, if that’s the case, then maybe a third driver role is not bad for him. But if he wants to still prove himself and he thinks he can get back on the grid, and he’s still got the energy to go for it, for me, the option is a Haas seat or a Williams seat that was until [Logan] Sargent was confirmed.

“Look at Alex Albon now. He was in Red Bull, he was looking like the next big thing, had a bad year against Max [Verstappen, got dropped. And now you’d put him in that bracket of a really solid midfielder.”

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