RACING

If Daniel Ricciardo leaves Formula 1, he will go to endurance racing

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Daniel Ricciardo poses in the pit lane before the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami.

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Daniel Ricciardo poses in the pit lane before the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami.
Photo: Chris Gray then (Getty Images)

As IndyCar’s Colton Herta prepares for a Formula 1 test in Portimao, Portugal, for the McLaren team, speculation has abounded about Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie rider hasn’t really been in top form this year, playing second fiddle to teammate Lando Norris, and all eyes are on Colton Herta as a potential Ricciardo replacement. But if Ricciardo leaves, he probably won’t go where you think. In fact, he probably does endurance racing.

Listen. I understand. Ricciardo is a NASCAR fan, so some people want to see him there. Others see series like IndyCar or Formula E as viable options for F1 pariahs who want a more level playing field on which to compete. But I’ll be honest with all of you: there are a lot of very good reasons why it won’t happen. And that means we’re likely to see Ricciardo tackle endurance racing – probably one of the new prototype programs – in the future.

Of course, this is just speculation on my part. I could be wrong. But you know what? I’m sure that won’t happen.

Why not NASCAR?

Daniel Ricciardo has been a huge NASCAR fan since he was a kid. With programs like Trackhouse Racing Project 91which is designed to put international racers behind the wheel of a production car, it Is seem like a possibility.

But it’s not for a simple reason: Ricciardo doesn’t want to run on ovals. When I asked him if he would be interested in competing on ovalshis answer was a fat old man Nope:

Yeah, maybe on a lower level, yeah, just to dip my toe in the water, but like someone’s asking me, “Do you want to race in NASCAR this weekend on an oval?” I would say, “No, I will walk before I can run.

Could we see Ricciardo blackout as a NASCAR driver? Absolutely. I have no doubt that we can see him compete on the road courses with the series. But he’s not coming to NASCAR for a full season. It just doesn’t happen.

Why not IndyCar?

Ricciardo will also likely avoid IndyCar. Again, there are concerns with the ovals, but a road and street course program is probably not underway either.

See. I love IndyCar. I will bat for IndyCar every day of my life. But Ricciardo is too high profile for IndyCar, a series that offers $30,000 for a race win and paltry six-figure earnings for its star drivers, Drive Reports. F1 keeps its financial movements and transactions secret, but RacingNews365 estimates Ricciardo earns an annual salary of $15 million from McLaren – a salary that could, honestly, fund a good chunk of the IndyCar grid.

Sure, Ricciardo could bring sponsorship dollars to IndyCar, but what’s the benefit to him? He is one of the hottest drivers on the current F1 grid, if only for his personality. He wouldn’t win anything in IndyCar – no prestige, no money, no race results in the events that matter (i.e. the Indy 500). It just doesn’t happen.

Why not Formula E?

Like IndyCar, Formula E is generally seen as the series where ex-F1 drivers go to draw the last dregs of their open-wheel racing careers (although I think this deeply detracts from the quality of racing provided by both series ). Unlike IndyCar, every driver on the FE grid is paid.

The best earners in FE were estimated by the race earning around $2 million a year in 2020, but the average salary was around $750,000.

Suppose Ricciardo is one of these top earners. He would still earn a fraction of what he earns in F1, but he would do a lot less work to get it, since FE drivers clock in less than a month of track days each year.

But Formula E just doesn’t have the prestige. It’s a world championship, yes – but look at any comments section on any website that’s ever written about FE, and you’ll find countless people criticizing the series. A combination of 45-minute races, one-day events, slow-changing technology, and goofy racing organization has left the series constantly fighting for its legitimacy. Formula E would need Ricciardo more than Ricciardo would need Formula E, and I just don’t see him taking that step.

Could he stay in F1?

I’ve had too many long conversations about Ricciardo’s potential options to stay in F1, and honestly? I don’t think the prospects are great. McLaren aren’t exactly a championship-winning side at the moment, but with their still poor results compared to his team-mate, Ricciardo won’t be the McLaren driver who gets promoted to Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari. AlphaTauri is off the table after Ricciardo left the Red Bull Junior program. The remaining teams are uncompetitive and unlikely to be able to deliver the salary or results Ricciardo expects.

Maybe Ricciardo could stay in F1. Maybe. But I’ve heard rumors that there are a handful of reasons why he’s not exactly a hot commodity in the F1 world, meaning staying in F1 would probably be a last ditch effort.

Why endurance races?

So what’s left on the table for Ricciardo? In my eyes, it will be endurance races, probably with the World Endurance Championship.

You see, Ricciardo has already said that he is interested in racing 24 hours of Le Mans, which makes the WEC an easy choice. No, WEC driver salaries aren’t exactly huge, but the WEC calendar also offers the prestige of historic events. If you were a racing driver, what would the race be like? you rather win: the six hours of Monza, the Jakarta ePrix or the Honda Indy 200?

If Ricciardo goes to the WEC, he goes to a top prototype team. He will become a hypercar pilot. This title alone carries weight, but it will also be associated with the technical advancements that are happening in the world of endurance racing right now. He will have a handful of races a year to contest (many of which are long-standing pinnacles of motorsport history), giving him plenty of opportunities to produce tv shows or give high-level talks. He will be able to keep his name on the motorsport map and his thumb on pop culture. It just does meaning. It’s the only place I can see him go.

McLaren says Ricciardo is firmly established in the team for 2023, so we could still have a year for those factors to change in a way that would make staying in F1 a more favorable proposition than anything else – but I think we ‘ will see a surprising end to the contract well before the start of the 2023 season. And if that happens, I have only one thing to say: Daniel Ricciardo, prove me wrong.

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