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Will Daniel Ricciardo Keep His Seat At McLaren? 

It hasn’t been a good few years for Daniel Ricciardo in F1 even before he joined McLaren, in fact they’ve been so terrible that many are now questioning his future...
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It hasn’t been a good few years for Daniel Ricciardo in F1 even before he joined McLaren, in fact they’ve been so terrible that many are now questioning his future in the sport.

This topic isn’t anything new but a few comments from McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, have once again thrown doubt on Daniel Ricciardo’s future in Formula 1. His performance is lacking and with plenty of young talent hungry and ready for a seat in F1, what’s to say that McLaren won’t dump him for someone new?

Daniel Ricciardo’s contract with McLaren doesn’t expire until the end of 2023 but there is already interest in his seat especially from 22-year-old American IndyCar driver, Colton Herta.

Will Colton Herta Replace Ricciardo?

Colton Herta

There are a few reasons for Herta’s entrance into the sport. One is that he’s producing some decent results in IndyCar coming 5th in 2021 and 3rd in 2020. The other is that F1 is currently embracing the new generation of racers, and you only have to look at the 2022 podiums so far with Charles Leclerc (24), Max Verstappen (24), Lando Norris (22), Carlos Sainz (27), and George Russell (24) all being some of the big names this year. The only exception to the podium standings in terms of age is Sergio Perez (32) who is the same age as Ricciardo.

Another aspect of Herta’s entrance is simply due to the fact that he is American and F1 as an organisation is desperate to expand into the U.S. which they have been able to do successfully since Drive to Survive was first released. Now there are three new races in the U.S. for the 2023 season and no American drivers to race for the home crowd there. There would be a lot of money involved should there be an American driver on one of the teams.

McLaren seem to be looking ahead to this possible future. They’ve already signed Herta to test with them this year with their 2021 car. This would suggest that they are at least keeping Herta in their back pocket for the future.

As Zak Brown told RACER, “We’ve now got a plan installed for Colton [Herta]. That’s up to [team principal] Andreas Seidl to communicate that outwardly when he’s ready to communicate it. But yes, we have a plan.”

None of this means that Ricciardo is definitely going to be booted but it definitely puts in him a precarious position if his results don’t improve.

Veteran F1 journalist, Joe Saward, said on his website that,

“Daniel Ricciardo seems a little lost at McLaren and there continues to be rumours that in 2024 (if not earlier) Daniel will be replaced by Colton Herta, the American who Zak Brown believes could open the gates of Formula 1 to corporate America. We will have to see if Herta has everything needed to be an F1 star, but he seems to have the speed.”

For Herta’s part, he’s absolutely keen to get into F1. Last year he almost raced for Sauber (Alfa Romeo) but the takeover bid from Michael Andretti (Herta’s current boss) fell through. Herta told the Indianapolis Star that,

“If [Ricciardo] continues to build, I probably won’t have that opportunity but hopefully Lando kicks his ass a bit more, so I can at least have a shot. Obviously, I’d never wish down on someone. I’m not praying for his downfall. If he does well, great for him – he deserves the seat. I guess it’s all in his hands for the future, but part of me does kinda hope I get the opportunity, at least a little foot in the door to maybe show what I can do.”

Ricciardo's Staying Power

Can Daniel Ricciardo keep his seat? Absolutely, as long as he starts delivering solid results. 2022 has been an improvement with many of his poor placements attributed to technical issues rather than driver error (with the exception of Imola). He had a good run in Australia and the only reason he didn’t overtake Norris in that race was because he was asked not to, despite having better race pace.

Zak Brown commented on Ricciardo’s recent performance on the F1 Nation podcast. When asked whether the Australian is more comfortable this season Brown responded, “Yeah, I think for sure. His race days have been very strong, much better in qualifying. Listening to him earlier this week with the team, I think he still doesn’t feel he’s 10 out of 10 on top of the car, but he has got a great relationship with Lando, he knows the team well.

“It was great he was able to go back to Australia for the first time in a couple of years and recharge the batteries and see the family, so we’re really happy to see Daniel on top of his game.”

When asked about Daniel’s future and when (if any) changes were being decided, Brown said,

“Probably later this year. We have another year together, we do like to think long out, hence doing some testing with Pato, we’re going to do some testing with Colton, we’ve got Ugo in Formula 4, who put it on pole at his first race. So I don’t think you can ever plan too early but there’s no rush.”

If that doesn’t tell you that as long as Daniel can perform he can stay at McLaren, then I don’t know what else will. And that’s fair to McLaren, they’re a big company, and while they like Daniel, they can’t risk their finances on someone who isn’t performing when there’s so much talent out there willing and able to take his seat.

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