McLaren are reported to have told Daniel Ricciardo he will be replaced in the team by Oscar Piastri next year.
The news comes at the end of a dramatic week in the F1 driver merry-go-round which began with the announcement that Fernando Alonso is to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin.
The following day, Alpine issued a press release stating their academy driver Piastri would take Alonso’s seat alongside Esteban Ocon, only for the 21-year-old Australian to knock that down within a couple of hours by tweeting that was “wrong” and he would not be driving for the French team in 2023.
Speculation had been swirling that Piastri was targeting a move to McLaren – and now Motorsport.com are reporting that even though Ricciardo has a contract until the end of 2023, he will be moved aside to make way for his younger compatriot.
The report suggests Piastri has been signed as a reserve driver for 2023, but that once an agreement for Ricciardo’s departure has been agreed that deal will be upgraded to a race seat alongside Lando Norris.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) August 4, 2022
Piastri was first linked with McLaren in March when Ricciardo contracted COVID-19 and had to miss official pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Alpine agreed to ‘loan’ Piastri to McLaren for the opening race of the campaign if Ricciardo had not recovered in time to take part, which he ultimately did.
But that was clearly not the end of the interest and Motorsport.com are reporting the 21-year-old has been on the McLaren radar for “several weeks” as they looked for a candidate to replace Ricciardo – who, for the second consecutive campaign, has underwhelmed with his performances.
Although Alpine claimed they had Piastri under contract for 2023, it is reported that the deal was “never properly signed” and therefore the reigning Formula 2 champion was able to walk away from the team to which he has been affiliated since the start of 2020.
Before Alonso’s move, Alpine had discussed the possibility of a ‘loan’ move for Piastri to a team with a potential race seat available next year, such as Williams, but clearly the driver and his manager, Mark Webber, had greater ambitions to get him up the grid faster.
As for Ricciardo, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said earlier in the week he would be a “good recommendation” to return to the team and replace Alonso, insisting the fact he had left the team – when known as Renault – at the end of 2020 to join McLaren was not necessarily a barrier to a reunion.