SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium: McLaren boss Zak Brown quashed suggestions on Thursday (Aug 25) that the Formula 1 team were considering paying Daniel Ricciardo not to race in 2023.
Twenty-four hours after the Australian driver’s announcement that he was leaving the team at the end of this season, by mutual agreement, Brown reacted to mounting speculation on his future.
“It was never a discussion to consider not allowing him to race in any other form of motorsport next year,” said Brown, as reported by The Race website.
“And we hope he does. He’s a friend of the family and always will be. Restricting a racing driver from racing cars is nothing that McLaren would ever do.”
Many observers have said that they expect to see another Australian driver, Oscar Piastri, winner of successive titles in the F3 and F2 championship series and reserve driver for rival F1 team Alpine, take the seat alongside rising British star Lando Norris.
Piastri rejected a statement made by Alpine earlier this month claiming that he would race for them in 2023. That followed Fernando Alonso’s announcement he was leaving Alpine to replace Sebastian Vettel, who is retiring, at Aston Martin.
The claims and counter-claims signalled an early start to the traditional Formula 1 “silly season” as teams and drivers began to negotiate on future plans and possible moves.
Ricciardo will be a much-sought-after driver with Haas considering him as a successor to Mick Schumacher next year, if the American team releases the young German.
Brown was reluctant to comment on suggestions that if Ricciardo, an eight-time Grand Prix winner, joined Haas, it would reduce the sum McLaren pay him in terminating the third year of his contract.
“We’re not going to get into details other than (to say) we have an amicable and agreeable solution,” said Brown, dismissing suggestions that McLaren were set to pay him US$25 million.
“We hope Daniel will be on the grid next year. We don’t have any knowledge of his plans other than his desire to be on the grid.”
The unfolding narrative on the eve of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix has revived memories of the way in which seven-time champion Michael Schumacher’s career began at Spa-Francorchamps in 1991 when, after one race with Jordan, he was recruited by Benetton for the Italian Grand Prix.
That move prompted former McLaren boss Ron Dennis to say “‘welcome to the Piranha Club” when he met Jordan owner Eddie Jordan in the Monza paddock, a phrase that is often revived as F1’s sporting and political machinations accelerate at this time of year.