The great game of F1 musical chairs could leave Daniel Ricciardo without a seat in 2023.
The Aussie star last week re-affirmed his commitment to McLaren despite Sebastian Vettel’s shock retirement briefly leaving a vacant seat.
That was followed by the bombshell news Fernando Alonso was leaving Alpine, opening the door for Aussie Oscar Piastri to get behind the wheel for the F1 team.
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Alpine released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) announcing Piastri would be part of its driver line-up in 2023.
However, in a spectacular turn of events, just hours later Piastri emphatically rejected that claim in a scathing tweet.
“I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year,” Piastri said. “This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”
The bombshell rejection only intensifies rumours Piastri has signed with McLaren — meaning Ricciardo could be out the door after two miserable seasons with the papaya team.
There has been plenty of speculation Ricciardo cut be cut loose at the end of this season despite his contract running until the end of 2023. McLaren boss Zak Brown has said publically his Australian driver has failed to meet expectations since he joined from Renault in 2021.
However, details about Ricciardo’s contract reported this year suggested only he could decide to cut ties with McLaren early.
Alonso’s current team, Alpine, learnt of the news of his move to Aston Martin at the exact same time as everyone else, through a press release.
By releasing its public statement, it’s clear Alpine is now set to play hard ball with talented youngster Piastri, who is managed by Aussie legend Mark Webber.
It had been reported earlier Piastri and Webber had agreed to a deal with McLaren, with Alpine’s plan to keep Alonso on board for one more season in 2023 before installing the Australian young gun behind the wheel.
Alonso’s bombshell defection, however, changes all of that. And Piastri’s public rejection of Alpine has made things even murkier.
Amid the storm, Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer confirmed he has not spoken to Webber since Alonso’s news came out.
Szafnauer said while he wasn’t privy to an discussions between Piastri and McLaren, he reiterated the Aussie has contractual obligations to Alpine.
“I hear the same rumours that you do in the pitlane. But what I do know is that he does have contractual obligations to us. And we do to him. And we’ve been honouring those obligations all year,” Szafnauer said to Autosport.
“And those obligations, last through ‘23, and possibly in ‘24, if some options are taken up.”
F1 pundits suggested Alpine’s public statement was a way to get ahead of the game, and try and force Piastri into staying.
The craziest development in the game of musical chairs is new speculation Ricciardo could be headed back to Alpine — the team he walked out on to join McLaren. The team was previously known as Renault.
Ricciardo recently moved to silence all the rumours in a defiant Instagram message.
“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.”
Whether that remains true after the astonishing developments on Wednesday, remains to be seen.
Ricciardo’s miserable season only got worse on Sunday, finishing 15th in the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.