Ricciardo’s Locked-in Contract Foils Mercedes Plans

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has provided some clarity regarding Daniel Ricciardo’s future in Formula 1, effectively quashing speculations about the Aussie driver replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for the 2025 season.

The motorsport world was left stunned by the recent announcement that Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time F1 world champion, would be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari after the 2024 season. This revelation sparked rumours that Daniel Ricciardo could be a potential candidate to fill Hamilton’s shoes at the Silver Arrows.

In response to Hamilton’s departure, the British driver expressed his deep connection with Mercedes, where he had been a part of the team since he was just 13 years old.

He shared in a statement, “It’s a place where I have grown up, so deciding to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge.”

Hamilton’s move to Ferrari on a multi-year deal to secure an eighth championship title and extend his racing career into his forties prompted significant changes in the driver lineup.

He emphasized his commitment to delivering a strong performance in 2024 alongside his new teammate Charles Leclerc, who was set to replace Carlos Sainz.

However, Helmut Marko has put a halt to the notion that Daniel Ricciardo could make the switch to Mercedes. Marko revealed that Ricciardo has a long-term contract with Red Bull, stating firmly, “Ricciardo still has a long-term contract and is not available (for Mercedes),” in an interview with F1 Insider.

With Ricciardo off the table, other potential candidates for the vacant Mercedes seat have emerged. One such contender is former Red Bull driver Alex Albon, who has been rebuilding his reputation with Williams.

Another intriguing prospect is the young talent Andrea Kimi Antonelli, a 17-year-old making his Formula 2 debut in 2024, offering an unexpected option for the team.

Daniel Ricciardo, currently driving for Visa Cash App RB (formerly AlphaTauri), has expressed his renewed passion for the sport after taking a break from Formula 1 in 2022.

In an interview with The Mirror last season, he mentioned, “Being back here [AlphaTauri], it just feels very right for me. The chemistry in the team is really good, and I like that. The big picture would be to get back to that team [Red Bull] and that car one day, but I also said that if there is not an opening, then I want to stay here.”

Although there were initial discussions about Ricciardo potentially becoming Max Verstappen’s second driver in 2024, Red Bull’s Christian Horner has expressed unwavering support for Sergio Perez.

Horner emphasized, “I am absolutely confident and clear that Checo (Perez) will be our driver next year,” adding that there might be unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. He affirmed their intention to move forward with their planned driver lineup for 2024, ensuring Perez remains part of the team.

Horner also highlighted, “We’ll give him all the support we can to ensure that he finishes second (in the drivers’ standings), but there’s no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, you’re out.”