Ricciardo will make his first look as Purple Bull’s reserve driver in his residence race at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the place he shall be on standby for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Nevertheless, barring unexpected circumstances, the 33-year-old’s weekend will largely consist of promoting actions and catching up with outdated mates.
Though Ricciardo’s return to F1 is bittersweet, particularly as he watches compatriot (and alternative) Oscar Piastri compete in his first Grand Prix on residence soil, there’s one occasion the place his absence from the grid is a type of blessing in disguise.
Following McLaren’s resolution to drop Ricciardo, the Woking-based staff have endured a depressing winter and are beginning the brand new season.
The British outfit are but to attain a degree within the opening two rounds and stay anchored to the underside of the constructors’ championship after being crippled by reliability points and an absence of efficiency.
There has additionally been off-track turmoil, with Andreas Seidl’s early departure to Alfa Romeo Sauber adopted by the departure of technical director James Key after the staff admitted lacking key improvement targets throughout the low season.
Amid McLaren’s obvious downfall, Ricciardo will need to have breathed a sigh of aid. Not solely does he not should drive a nasty automotive, however he will get the break he wished and pockets £18million following the termination of his contract.
There may be a slight justification for Ricciardo and his followers that not all of McLaren’s issues have been essentially linked to the Australian.
So was McLaren proper to do away with Ricciardo? Most likely. It is too early to evaluate his alternative Piastri correctly, however given the extent of Ricciardo’s disappointing efficiency over two seasons – Monza aside – a change was wanted.
Regardless of all of McLaren’s troubles, Piastri regarded extra as much as Lando Norris than Ricciardo in simply two races. And one would assume that extremely rated Piastri’s ceiling is far increased given he’s within the early days of his F1 profession.
Will Ricciardo ever return full time?
On the launch of Purple Bull’s pre-season, Ricciardo mentioned his return to the paddock in Australia “would inform me so much” about his want to return full-time.
Upon his departure from McLaren, Ricciardo declared his intention to safe a full-time seat for 2024, however provided that he met his expectations.
In spite of everything, that is an enormous a part of why he determined to retire this season, given the dearth of aggressive seats out there.
The issue for Ricciardo is that there isn’t a apparent touchdown spot if he desires a lead automotive.
Barring a serious fallout at Purple Bull, he will not change Verstappen or Perez, whereas Ferrari is locked out. Ricciardo can be unlikely to be Mercedes’ first selection ought to Lewis Hamilton resolve to not renew his contract.
Other than the groups that didn’t curiosity him on the finish of 2022, it’s troublesome to see what choices Ricciardo may have.
Paradoxically, a seat at McLaren may open up if Norris’ frustration leads him to hunt new horizons.
McLaren boss Zak Brown has left the door open for a return for Ricciardo, however coming via a clumsy divorce, a reunion appears extremely unrealistic.
Will the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix find yourself being Ricciardo’s final aggressive look in an F1 automotive? Except he resets his ambitions, that prospect appears to be like more and more doubtless.