Speculation surrounding the future of Daniel Ricciardo has been one of the talking points of the season amid his continued struggles with McLaren. Aside from his shock win at Monza last year, the Australian has endured a disappointing 18 months with the Woking squad, with team boss Zak Brown publicly admitting his spell with the team has fallen below expectations.
There were rumours that Ricciardo could be replaced for 2023 but the man himself has scotched such talk, reiterating his commitment to both F1 and McLaren on social media this week. But even if Ricciardo does remain with the team for next season, there could well be a vacancy for 2024, by which time his three-year contract will have expired. If Ricciardo’s fortunes haven’t improved drastically by then, it is likely McLaren will look to their pool of other drivers.
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And they have plenty to choose from, plus some potential options who belong to other teams on the F1 grid. Daily Star Sport assesses the prospects of nine drivers who would crave one of the most coveted seats on the grid…
The latest name to drop onto the McLaren radar is none other than the current IndyCar champion. It has been confirmed that Palou will leave Chip Ganassi Racing and race for the McLaren stable in 2023.
However, intriguingly, the announcement didn’t specify which series he would be racing in, with McLaren having seats available in both IndyCar and Formula E.
While a switch to F1 looks unlikely in the short-term, he will drive an F1 car next season as part of a testing programme, which could pave the way to a run-out during a grand prix practice session.
Herta could have been in F1 already had his current team boss in IndyCar, Michael Andretti, managed to complete a buy-out of the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team. Herta had been earmarked for a seat, but remains stateside for now.
He was in Europe only this week testing last year’s McLaren F1 car in Portugal. However, with Palou now in the frame, his odds of securing an F1 seat have lengthened a little.
The Mexican went close to winning the IndyCar title with Arrow McLaren SP in 2021 – a year which ended with an F1 test in Abu Dhabi, where he impressed Brown.
O’Ward recently signed a new contract with Arrow McLaren, taking him up to the end of 2025. Crucially, that deal includes further F1 tests and, if McLaren wish, they could switch him to another series before the end of his deal.
The F1 options
There were rumours that the Frenchman was in the frame for a McLaren seat before it was confirmed he would remain with AlphaTauri for 2023. Gasly could still be an option for 2024 though.
After being drubbed by Max Verstappen at Red Bull in 2020, Albon sat out last year before returning to action, and form, with Williams this season. The British-born Thai has emerged as a team leader and would be deserving of a more competitive drive. The fact he is still linked to Red Bull complicates matter slightly, although a racing return to that stable looks highly unlikely, with Sergio Perez recently signing a new long-term contract with the team.
This has been the most intriguing link so far. Vettel is mulling over his future after a disappointing spell with the under-performing Aston Martin. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he quit F1 entirely, but could the veteran be tempted by a swansong with one of the most famous teams on the grid? Stranger things have happened.
The Alpine reserve driver and F2 champion is a man in demand, with Williams keen to sign the Australian for 2023. McLaren has also emerged as a potential destination, although he and agent Mark Webber may not want to wait until 2024. A year at Williams followed by a switch to McLaren perhaps?
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Nyck de Vries
The Dutchman spent eight years as a McLaren junior driver before severing ties with the team in 2019. The former Formula 2 and Formula E champion, De Vries is a test and reserve driver for Mercedes.
Another driver with both McLaren and Mercedes links, the Belgian raced in F1 for McLaren in 2017 and 2018 before being replaced. He is currently in Formula E and tested an Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar last year. Now 30, his F1 hopes look to be over though.
Paul di Resta
The 36-year-old former Force India driver is on McLaren’s books as a reserve driver, but looks highly unlikely to get back into F1 full-time as a driver.
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