Daniel Ricciardo has reaffirmed his commitment to McLaren around despite Sebastian Vettel’s shock retirement leaving a vacant seat at a rival team.
The Aston Martin star announced on Thursday night he will retire from F1 at the end of the season.
There were rumours Vettel, a four-time world champion, might replace Ricciardo in papaya as the Aussie struggles again this season, but that won’t eventuate. Nor does Ricciardo have any intention of pursuing the opening at Aston Martin.
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Asked by Sky Sports’ David Croft if he would be interested in moving to Aston Martin, Ricciardo was quick to shut down that possibility.
“Did you hear any of my interviews last week, Crofty?” Ricciardo said during the drivers’ press conference. “Nothing against (Aston Martin), but as I said last week my future is clear.”
Last week, Ricciardo posted a defiant message about his future in the face of speculation that has swirled all season due to his McLaren struggles.
“There have been a lot of rumours around my future in Formula 1, but I want you to hear it from me,” he wrote.
“I am committed to McLaren until the end of next year and am not walking away from the sport. Appreciate it hasn’t always been easy, but who wants easy!
“I’m working my a** off with the team to make improvements and get the car right and back to the front where it belongs. I still want this more than ever.”
Ricciardo is contracted to McLaren until the end of 2023 and has reiterated his commitment to the team in several interviews.
The 33-year-old finished ninth at the recent French Grand Prix, giving him his first back-to-back points finish of the season after a top-10 result in Austria the race prior.
But Ricciardo is still languishing in 12th in the drivers’ championship on 19 points — 51 points behind teammate Lando Norris. McLaren were also overtaken in fourth on the constructors’ ladder by Alpine.
Ricciardo wasn’t the only driver questioned about a potential Aston Martin move after Vettel’s bombshell announcement.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was replaced at Aston Martin by Lance Stroll, whose billionaire father Lawrence was part of a consortium that bought and rebranded the team.
Asked about a move back, Ocon said: “I’m good at Alpine at the moment, but I know the team very well and what they are capable of.”
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas also both brushed off any speculation.
However, Williams’ Alexander Albon didn’t shut the door completely.
“Aston Martin are a great team, they’re clearly expanding as a team as well,” he said. “But the focus right now has to be on this year, and we’ll leave it as that.”
Ricciardo paid tribute to Vettel, who he partnered at Red Bull in 2014, calling their time together a “privilege”.
“In a way it’s sad of course because you know you’re losing a bit of a legend of the sport,” Ricciardo said.
“Obviously, I personally spent some time alongside him, which was for sure a privilege.
“I learned a lot in 2014 alongside him and even before that when I was a reserve driver and just being around the team and watching how he’d work, it was just always interesting. He had a lot of good traits and a way to get people behind him and rally but also be very direct.
“We’ll obviously certainly miss him but wish him well.”
Vettel revealed he would retire via a video on his newly-created Instagram account.
The German said he still loves F1 but his passion for the sport no longer aligns with his wish to spend more time with his family and pursue his environmental interests.
“I have grown other interests outside Formula One,” he said.
“My passion for racing and Formula One comes with lots of time spent away from them and takes a lot of energy committing to my passion the way I did and the way I think it is right, does no longer go side-by-side with my wish to be a great father and husband, the energy it takes to become one with a car and the team to chase perfection takes focus and commitment.
“My passion comes with certain aspects that I’ve learned to dislike.
“They might be solved in the future, but the will to apply that change has to grow much, much stronger and has to be leading to action today.
“Talk is not enough and we cannot afford to wait. There is no alternative. The race is underway.”
Vettel won his first Grand Prix in 2008 and went on to win the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 world titles at Red Bull, with Australian Mark Webber as his teammate.
At the age of 23, Vettel became the youngest driver to win an F1 world title when he claimed the first of his four-peat in 2010.
He has the third-most race wins in F1 history (53), behind only Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103).
Vettel left Red Bull to join Ferrari in 2015 and challenged Mercedes for the title on several occasions but always ended up falling short of the major prize during his six-year stint with the Scuderia.
He then made the move to Aston Martin in 2021, but has struggled to make an impact in the midfield battle.
The 35-year-old sits 14th overall in this year’s drivers’ championship.
Vettel, one of the more socially and environmentally conscious drivers on the grid, has long been an advocate for action on climate change and has been part of F1’s push to become more eco-friendly.
He was one of the first drivers to declare he would boycott the Russian Grand Prix and has worn a helmet in support of Ukraine. He has also called for F1’s gruelling 23-race calendar to be reduced.
Vettel caused a stir at the Miami Grand Prix in May when he highlighted the issue of climate change by wearing a T-shirt with the message: “Miami 2060. 1st Grand Prix under water. Act now or swim later.”
A fan favourite, he protested the FIA’s fireproof safety standards by wearing his underpants over the top of his racing overalls.