Daniel Ricciardo, who lost his McLaren seat as his career fell into the doldrums this year, looks set to join Red Bull or Mercedes as a reserve driver next season when he takes a year out of racing.
The Australian hinted at his brightening future prospects after storming to seventh with a reinvigorated performance in Sunday’s Mexico Grand Prix, but he declined to confirm his plans.
“I won’t be on the grid next year, but I will be here (in F1) because I have ambitious plans for 2024,” he said. “Discussions are ongoing, but nothing has been signed.
“Nothing has been guaranteed for 2024, but I will do everything I can to return.”
Ricciardo, 33, revived his prospects and his smile on Sunday when he rose from the near-anonymous mediocrity of finishing among the also rans to finish behind the top six – made up of both Red Bulls, both Mercedes and the two Ferraris.
He made light of a harsh 10-second penalty for colliding with Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri to romp back with several thrilling passing moves to finish ahead of McLaren team-mate Lando Norris.
His revival delighted most paddock observers who believed he was set to join Mercedes as replacement for reserve driver Nyck de Vries who is joining Alpha Tauri next season.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff confirmed that talks between them have been taking place, but he added that he thought Ricciardo was talking to other teams.
“Yes, also with Red Bull Racing,” said Wolff. “For. Us, we think he’s a great character, but we are not ready yet to say who our third driver will be next season.
“His personality is an absolute strength and Daniel has been with us for a long time. He knows these cars inside out.
“That can definitely be an advantage, but I don’t want to start any rumours here because the truth is that we haven’t decided anything yet.”
Ricciardo was voted ‘Driver of the Day’ for his efforts at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and revelled in the attention he earned following the race.
“I can confidently say I won’t be on the grid behind a wheel,” he told Sky Sports F1 with a characteristic beaming grin.
As an eight-time winner, he had proved he was a man with something to prove again. “I still want to be in the sport and I want to be working with a team with the ambition to be back in 2024.
“Honestly where my head is at as well. I feel like a bit of time away from a race seat will do me good and then try to rebuild. Let’s say, I’m not done, but it will look a bit different.
“No doubt, the last two years have been quite hard, especially when you put a lot in and when it doesn’t come back, it can get you down.
“I think as well, the value of even a summer break, stepping away, gives you a different perspective. It’s pretty relentless. You don’t really get a chance to rebuild. Everyone is different, but I truly believe that’s a blessing in disguise. By doing less, I’ll achieve more.”
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