The worst kept secret in F1 has been confirmed - Daniel Ricciardo will not drive for McLaren in 2023.
The Australian driver's departure was confirmed as "mutual" on Wednesday, though many outlets are reporting that Ricciardo was released early from his contract by the team.
Ricciardo himself seemed to hint that the decision was initially not his in a video message posted to social media in the aftermath of the announcement. He said:
2022 will be my last year with McLaren. Obviously, we put in a lot of effort on both sides, but it just hasn't worked the way we wanted, so the team has decided to make a change for next year. We had a lot of discussions, but in the end we agreed that it was the right thing for both of us.
I will continue to do the rest of this year, and continue to give my all.
For the future, what lies ahead, I'm not sure yet. We'll see.
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) August 24, 2022
The announcement has been coming - reports weeks ago suggested that Ricciardo would be replaced by his countryman, F2 champion Oscar Piastri.
The decision to split with McLaren leaves Daniel Ricciardo without an F1 drive for 2023 - for now. There are, of course, rumours floating around about the Aussie's future, so we've taken a look at where he is likely to end up, if he is to remain on the grid for next season.
We've gone through each team on the F1 grid that still has a seat free for next season, and assessed at which of them Ricciardo is most likely to end up (if anywhere)
Daniel Ricciardo: The options left for Aussie in F1 in 2023
Return to Alpine
This seems the most likely, and has been widely rumoured in the media ever since Fernando Alonso's departure from Alpine was confirmed.
Daniel Ricciardo drove for Alpine in their previous guise of Renault F1 for two years from 2019 to 2020, before stunning the team by moving to McLaren on short notice. He left the team in the middle of their upturn in pace, and they appear stronger now than when he left. But Ricciardo's last great season in F1 also came at Alpine in 2020, when he was one of the drivers of the season and claimed two podiums.
The biggest obstacle here may well be the terms on which Ricciardo left. Renault were shocked by his departure, with senior personnel reportedly disappointed in the Aussie abandoning ship. There would be a substantial rebuilding of bridges required, but Alpine seems like Daniel Ricciardo's best shot at an F1 seat for next year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 11, 2020
Haas are the other team Ricciardo has been routinely linked with over the past few weeks. The American team - led by the iconic Guenther Steiner - reportedly contacted Ricciardo about his availability during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend at the end of July.
Daniel Ricciardo is a long shot to race at Haas next year.
ESPN understands Guenther Steiner called the eight-time race winner ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix 👀 pic.twitter.com/zie0a186s5
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) August 23, 2022
Haas have struggled over the past two seasons, but have enjoyed something of a return to form in 2022. Kevin Magnussen finished a sensational fifth at the season opener in Bahrain, while Mick Schumacher was sixth in the recent Austrian Grand Prix.
Magnussen's contract is confirmed for 2023, but Schumacher's seat is under threat, after an underwhelming opening two seasons at Haas. Former Alfa Romeo man Antonio Giovinazzi is also reportedly in the mix for the Haas seat, and will take part in two FP1 sessions for them before the end of the 2022 season.
Haas would certainly be a step down, but it may be another route for Daniel Ricciardo to stay in F1.
Williams have one of their drivers (Alex Albon) confirmed for 2023, but his teammate Nicholas Latifi is under serious pressure. Latifi has not delivered much in the way of impressive results in his three years at Williams, despite being relatively solid and reliable during that time.
2022 has been his toughest year yet, and plenty of drivers, including Ricciardo and his former teammate Nico Hulkenberg, have been linked with the seat.
This link is one of the more "hearsay" ones - there has been little in the way of concrete reporting on this, so we see it as a fairly unlikely option. ESPN have reported that contact was made by Williams over the summer break, but it would be a very surprising move.
We're now getting to the long shots. There's been virtually nothing linking Ricciardo with an Alfa Romeo drive for 2023, but they have yet to announce who will partner Valtteri Bottas for next season, so it does remain a possibility.
Zhou Guanyu has done solidly if not spectacularly this season, and would be the favourite to keep his seat alongside Bottas but, as with Williams and Haas, it would not be a surprise to see Alfa delay their decision in the hopes of manouevring for Ricciardo.
Nonetheless, we see Mick Schumacher as a far more likely candidate for the Alfa Romeo seat than Daniel Ricciardo, if they were to take the surprising decision to drop Zhou.
There is a seat at AlphaTauri for 2023, but it won't be Ricciardo's. The Aussie left the Red Bull family four years ago having come up through their academy, as he sought to break away from a team being built around Max Verstappen. To return to their junior team at this stage of his career would be a terrible indictment of Ricciardo's decision to leave in the first place, and would not be one that would interest the decision makers at AlphaTauri.
Besides, he is unlikely to dethrone Yuki Tsunoda, who has improved significantly in his second year in F1.
Options outside of F1 for Daniel Ricciardo
The options are limited for Daniel Ricciardo in F1 next season. He could take a sabbatical, but that would leave him hoping against hope that he would get a seat for 2024.
Other options include jumping across the water to IndyCar. Plenty of ex-F1 drivers have been experiencing success there in recent years, including Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, and Takuma Sato, and it seems like a series that would be suited to Ricciardo.
Formula E and the World Endurance Championship are also on the table, but Ricciardo seems like more of a rallying guy to us (that's just a hunch, not even remotely based in fact - though he does enjoy BMX).
Wherever he ends up, Daniel Ricciardo will add to the racing series he is in, and fans will hope that his departure from McLaren is not the end of his F1 career.