Daniel Ricciardo, 2023 contract, future, Mercedes reserve driving, Lewis Hamilton

Daniel Ricciardo’s miserable luck in F1 struck again at the Italian Grand Pix, although the Australian still delivered one of his best records of the year amid uncertainty over his future.

The Australian is driverless in 2023 after being bought out of the third and final year of his McLaren contract to be replaced by young compatriot Oscar Piastri.

There are only six races left this season for Ricciardo to showcase and improve his stocks, either for next year or for 2024 where other places are expected.

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A late oil leak at Monza torpedoed hopes of his best result since June, but Ricciardo still offered a reminder of his solid racing craft which was once considered one of the best, if not the best, in the domain.

Despite his well-known pace struggles and discomforts in the McLaren cockpit, Ricciardo managed to hold off AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly from lap one until his retirement on lap 47.

Gasly, whose AlphaTauri was faster, was close behind Ricciardo throughout the race, but the 33-year-old didn’t put a single foot under pressure, leaving Gasly frustrated.

“I’m definitely going to have nightmares of Daniel’s rear wing over the next few days,” Gasly said after the race.

“I spent I don’t know how many laps behind him, but it was a lifetime.

“I tried everything, but he didn’t make a single mistake.”

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Ricciardo started the race in fourth position due to several grid penalties for other drivers, then dropped to third after teammate Lando Norris repeatedly entered the anti-stall.

Norris eventually reclaimed most of the ground as the faster cars of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes passed Ricciardo and Gasly.

Ricciardo’s race was firmly with the Frenchman, and he was close to finishing eighth until his car threw in the towel.

Speaking to reporters after the race, Ricciardo said he was happy with his performance until things were taken away from him.

“I had a good start obviously, I was third and I was hoping the race would end on the first lap, another podium would have been really good, but I didn’t have the pace,” Ricciardo said.

“I was trying to hang on today with Gasly and he was definitely faster so I was happy to hold him for most of the race.

“But I wish we had a little more to show.”

Ricciardo finally aligned himself with the curse of Monza. He is the third consecutive driver not to finish the Italian Grand Prix the year after winning the race, after Gasly and Leclerc.

It’s a blow that means he languishes 14th in the drivers’ standings with just 19 points to display for his 2022 campaign.

It is unclear what Ricciardo will do next year, although there are only vacancies at Williams, Alfa Romeo, Alpine and Haas.

Gasly is rumored to be the favorite at Alpine, while Nyck de Vries impressed on his F1 debut for Williams on Sunday and could link up with Alex Albon full-time next year.

That leaves Alfa Romeo and Haas, although the more likely outcome for Ricciardo is that he takes time off next year and aims for a return in 2024.

Rumor has it that the latter scenario could see him take on a reserve driver role, potentially at Mercedes with Hamilton out of contract at the end of 2023.

Ricciardo said he was open to anything, including a reserve role, but Hamilton said at the Italian Grand Prix he still had no plans to stop anytime soon.

“For years we’ve had ups and downs, with stories of retreating and stopping,” Hamilton said as he sat next to Ricciardo. “For me, I feel healthier than I’ve ever been, and I’m focusing on that a lot.

“I feel great, I love what I do and I don’t plan on quitting any time soon – sorry, mate!”

Ricciardo also jokingly dismissed the plan during a post-race show with F1.com’s Will Buxton.

During the show, Buxton joked that he would co-host the show with Ricciardo in 2023 if the Aussie took a reserve role with Mercedes.

Ricciardo replied, “Oh, I definitely don’t then!”

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