F1 2022: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘last-ever race’

Say it isn’t so Daniel Ricciardo!

The Aussie F1 star’s future has been up in the air since it was announced he was leaving McLaren a year earlier than contracted to clear space for countryman Oscar Piastri.

Linked to drives across the grid, Ricciardo admitted in October he wouldn’t be driving in 2023 and rejected an offer to move to Formula E or IndyCar.

Instead, he wants a year off and a return in 2024, as he has been heavily linked to a move to Mercedes or Red Bull as a reserve driver.

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But while Ricciardo’s view is firmly on 2024 and while his positive attitude has him focusing on a future in the sport, he’s admitted before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix he may not be able to make it back.

“Mentally I’m not treating it like it’s going to be my last-ever race – but it could be,” the 33-year-old conceded.

“I know that nothing’s guaranteed in the future, so I’m going out to enjoy it.

“I’m not going to get too, let’s say, emotional about the thought that, ‘oh, is it the last one or not?’.

“I do want to enjoy it and take it for what it is.”

As for his 2023 role, Ricciardo has continued to be coy on the subject.

“Progress is being made, we’ll see,” he said.

“Hopefully you can see my good looks again next year to some degree!”

Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt believes Ricciardo will join Red Bull as its reserve driver and brand ambassador for 2023 as he seeks a return to the grid for 2024.

The move becomes more intriguing after last weekend’s race exposed some tension between world champion Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez.

Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris did appear to give a clue the Aussie was set for a role in F1 as he shared his sadness at his departure.

“I will miss that the most, working so closely with a guy like Daniel, a guy I’ve had so many laughs with and I’ve learned so much from at the same time,” Norris said.

“Changing teammates is not a bad thing or a nice thing, but it’s always a big change.

“It’s always a shame going away from someone because I feel like I always build good friendships with my teammates and good relationships.

“But Daniel is Daniel, everyone loves Daniel.

“I will miss him as my teammate – but I won’t miss him because he’s going to be in the paddock next year.”

If it is the end, we’ll always have Monza.

Ricciardo’s time at McLaren has had the high of his eighth Grand Prix win at Monza in 2021 when he and Norris went 1-2 in a stunning boilover.

But joy has been hard to come by for Ricciardo in papaya as Norris has dominated the Aussie across both seasons.

And Ricciardo has been handed a reality check by several F1 personalities with the likes of Will Buxton and Jenson Button questioning if he has a future in the sport after a year off.

The final race of the season still has plenty riding on it for McLaren as the team sits 19 points behind Alpine for fourth in the constructor’s championship after neither Ricciardo or Norris finished last week’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

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