Formula One team McLaren has told Daniel Ricciardo it intends to replace him with Oscar Piastri next season, a source close to the Australian driver has confirmed to ESPN.
Ricciardo, who is in Los Angeles for partnership events, woke up to an email from McLaren CEO Zak Brown informing him of the decision on Friday morning.
McLaren will need to pay Ricciardo to cancel his deal, which runs until the end of 2023, a year early.
ESPN understands Piastri signed a deal with McLaren before his now-infamous tweet on Tuesday, when he followed up Alpine’s announcement he would replace Fernando Alonso in 2023 by saying he will not race for the French team next year.
The reigning Formula Two champion looks set to make his F1 debut as Lando Norris’ teammate next season, which could make them the best young driver pairing on the grid at present.
The only thing which could stop Piastri racing at McLaren is the FIA contract recognition board. Alpine is set to fight for its prized asset and is convinced it has the contractual right to his services next year.
The next question will be the pay-off due to Ricciardo and whether the hugely popular Australian will continue racing in F1.
A move to the seat Piastri declined at Alpine, where Ricciardo raced in 2019 and 2020 when it was known as Renault, seems like the most obvious choice to him. One appealing factor would be the chance to race the McLarens next season — Alpine and McLaren are locked in a tight fight for fourth in the constructors championship and are likely to be closely matched again next season.
Many in the paddock feel a move back to Alpine for Ricciardo might be the change of scenery the eight-time race winner needs to rediscover his old form, although there are serious questions around the culture of the French team and how likely it is they will ever produce a competitive race car.
Haas could also be a left-field prospect for Ricciardo as a replacement for Mick Schumacher, who has underwhelmed in his 18 months with the American team and whose contract is yet to be extended into next year. ESPN understands Haas boss Guenther Steiner was one of four to reach out to Ricciardo over the last two weeks to assess where his mind is at, although it is unclear whether the two actually had a follow-up conversation. Ricciardo may well see a short term deal at Haas as a route in at Ferrari, which supplies engines to the American team.
However, it is believed Ferrari has final say on who drives at one of the seats at Haas, which might throw a curveball at any move for Ricciardo as he would be replacing Ferrari-backed driver Schumacher.
Former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi is the only driver with F1 experience on Ferrari’s books and the Italian team might well see huge upsides to bringing Ricciardo on board with Haas.
Brown’s search for a new driver was prompted by Ricciardo’s poor form this year, in which he has dropped 56 points behind teammate Norris. Talks between Piastri and McLaren accelerated after Ricciardo’s disappointing showing at the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
The news is a substantial blow to Alpine after investing significant money into Piastri’s career to date. The team must face the reality of losing two-time champion Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin — a move the team only learned of via a press release — and now a driver many consider to be a future world champion in the space of a few days.