Daniel Ricciardo is in advanced talks with Red Bull about taking on a non-racing role next season, with an eye on securing a seat back on the grid for 2024.
On Friday, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko announced Ricciardo would be the team’s third driver in 2023, before retracting the statement a short time later.
In an apparent case of letting the cat out of the bag too early, Marko said the Western Australian would return to Milton Keynes next year, four years after departing the squad.
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Team principal Christian Horner clarified on Saturday that, while Red Bull is interested, no deal has been signed to bring back Ricciardo to the team where he won seven of his eight grand prix victories.
“To have a driver of Daniel’s profile and history with the team within the group is only an asset for us,” he said of the potential signing.
With very few non-racing positions remaining for next season as full-time drives at Alpine, Haas and Williams passed, Ricciardo’s decision to commit to a reserve role could spell the end of his F1 career.
However, the 33-year-old has revealed he actually fancies sitting out a year to clear his head.
“I knew that I wanted some time off next year from a race seat and just from the competition,” he told motorsport.com.
“It’s obviously been pretty tiring the last couple of years with the struggles, so it was pretty clear to me shortly after the summer break that that was what I wanted, and what was going to be best for me.
“So then it was, ‘OK, what’s the next best thing?’, and the more I thought about it, to obviously be involved to some degree with a top team, that was obviously the preference.
“But it’s not done. So that’s why I haven’t come out and confirmed it because that’s still the truth: it’s not done. But I can obviously look you in the eye now and say it’s the most likely option at this stage.”
Asked what happens if he gets to the middle of next year and feels he has no desire to return in 2024, Ricciardo said: “Then that’s my answer.
“Honestly, I think that’s also in a way the beauty of this. It’ll either fuel the fire and make me hungry and more motivated than ever, or it will actually be like ‘oh, this is the right thing for you’, and in that case then I must be really happy.
“Because as much as you go through highs and lows of racing, I’m still very happy with life, and am privileged to live a good one. So if next year I’m not interested in coming back, then I must be doing some really cool stuff [instead].”
Ricciardo also admitted that with F1 approaching its longest, and most demanding, fixture in its history and himself coming off the back of two difficult campaigns with McLaren, there is a risk he will underperform for a new team – ending his career anyway.
“Last season was already quite difficult, but this season was more difficult again,” he said.
“So then the more time that passed, the more I felt like, as much as I love it, I want to make sure that I’m doing it at my highest level and with, let’s say, the freshest approach possible.
“Looking at next year, it’s 24 races. It’s more and more demanding the season. So as much as I love it, I think if I jumped back into another situation, I might just not be the best version of myself.
“That’s why the more I thought about it, the more I was like, to jump back in and to let’s say rush it, just to be racing, probably doesn’t do myself justice or whichever team perhaps I would race for.”
Ricciardo previously floated a one-year sabbatical in 2023 if his options were limited.
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