Don’t worry about Daniel Ricciardo, he’s going to be fine.

The Aussie F1 veteran became the story of the F1 mid-year break when it was reported he was being moved on for his 21-year-old countryman Oscar Piastri.

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The news erupted last week after Fernando Alonso blindsided the F1 world when he jumped into Sebastian Vettel’s vacated seat at Aston Martin for 2023.

Alpine then announced Piastri would be the man to replace Alonso, only for the Melburnian to reject the seat, a bold move for a man who’s never driven an F1 car in anger.

But the news leaked over the weekend that it was Ricciardo’s seat Piastri was set to take, while McLaren were set to cut the eight-time race winner loose for the prodigious youngster — a move which would reportedly cost McLaren $21m in a payout for Ricciardo.

It leaves Ricciardo’s career at a crossroads after two largely miserable seasons in papaya, outside of the 2021 win at Monza.

Ricciardo had been regularly beaten by teammate Lando Norris and struggled to get his head around the car.

The 32-year-old left Renault for McLaren, but could return to the Enstone unit now branded Alpine, who are open to the move.

Alpine still believes it has an iron-clad deal with Piastri and are still planning for the young Aussie to take the seat, despite reports the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board had cleared Piastri’s move.

Although Alfa Romeo rookie and former Renault Academy driver Guanyu Zhou said he was glad he wasn’t “stuck” at Alpine, team boss Otmar Szafnauer believes his team is well placed to attack the top teams.

Speaking regarding Alonso’s decision, Szafnauer, the former Aston Martin boss, said: “I know both teams well,” he said. “I think I know (them), because I spent 12 years at the other team, better than I know all the individuals here just yet.

“And I know since I’ve left in December, they’ve hired some more people, some of which I was a part of recruiting, including Dan Fallows, and Eric Blandin from Mercedes. So I know what they’re trying to do.

“And I know that the people that are there, and I know this team here, and both teams have great potential.

“But as we sit here today, this team is performing at a much higher level. It’s hard to predict the future, but in the near future, for sure this team will continue to perform at that level, if not better.”

Alpine is currently fourth in the constructors’ standings on 99 points, behind only Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, and four points in front of McLaren. Aston Martin is ninth on 20 points.

Szafnauer also said Alpine weren’t done coming fourth.

“We have an internal program called Mountain Climber, and that’s to hire an additional 75 people in strategic areas that will help improve the capabilities of this team,” he said.

“And along with the 75 people, there’s also tools that we are improving now, some simulation tools, a new simulator, expanded capacity in manufacturing, some upgrades to our wind tunnel, all with the focus on being able to win in 100 races.

“So those things are still happening here. And they’re happening fast. We’re already at a level of 850 people here.

“So I am confident that we can outdo the team that Fernando is going to, in the time period that he will be there.”

Ricciardo scored 119 points in Renault in 2020, the best by a driver since the manufacturer’s return to the sport in 2016.

There’s no doubt he would be a strong option for Alpine.

However, in an interview with El Confidencial, Szafnauer said he would narrow the shortlist to four drivers, revealing he had fielded “like 14 calls from drivers who are interested”.

ESPN’s Nate Saunders also said Ricciardo would “still command the attention of teams up and down the grid” adding he is “one of the most marketable drivers on the grid at the moment and one who is especially popular in America”.

He added four teams had contacted him in the past fortnight prior to the news McLaren were moving to axe the Western Australian.

The Expresseven suggested a pay out from McLaren to Ricciardo and a forced season on the sideline could open up Mercedes.

Ricciardo has long coveted a seat with Ferrari or Mercedes and said the Silver Arrows had “always had an eye” on Ricciardo.

The 37-year-old seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has long been linked with retirement.

In 2019 when Ricciardo joined Renault, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he had caught their eye but didn’t end up pulling the trigger.

“We always had an eye on Daniel … we really like him in here,” Wolff said at the time. “It’s just the mentality in Mercedes – I sometimes feel if you’re happy in your relationship it is not always easy (to change).

“It is like being married, you need to be 100 per cent behind it. It was not a lack of interest, it was just that we were in a happy relationship and there was no need to flirt with another woman at that stage.”

Is it likely? Not at this stage, but stranger things have happened.

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