It was information that caused quite a reaction when it was released. On the evening of the ‘shock’ announcement of Fernando Alonso’s departure from Aston Martin, we revealed that among the contenders for the second Alpine seat, Daniel Ricciardo was the top-ranked. Many had questioned this choice: why Ricciardo and not Piastri? The next day, the case came to light with the “clash” between the young Australian and the French national team.
Currently, while this story between Piastri, Alpine and McLaren should soon end in court, Daniel Ricciardo’s name is now on everyone’s lips. It’s no secret that the Woking outfit want to rid themselves of the ‘burden’ that the Honey Badger has become over the past year and a half. And if Piastri gets the seat at McLaren, his fellow Australian could bounce back at Enstone. The best solution for Ricciardo, but also for Alpine. Explanations
Ricciardo knows the Enstone house
Daniel Ricciardo and Alpine-Renault, it’s a story that ended with a bit of a sausage. In mid-May 2020, he announced his departure from the French team to drive for McLaren the following season. A decision that disappointed Enstone as the Diamond brand had relied heavily on the Perth native in their strategy. But remember: when Daniel Ricciardo announced his flight to Woking, Renault was then in the middle of thinking about the continuation of its F1 programme. It was just two weeks after Ricciardo’s announcement at McLaren that the French firm confirmed its commitment for the next few years.
Then the choice of Daniel Ricciardo was therefore logical, the Australian wanted to protect his future in Formula 1. Certainly, by joining a direct competitor, the departure took the form of a small betrayal. But the ex-Red Bull pilot has never been cold with the tricolor team, the excellent 2020 season (with two podiums registered and a 6th place in the championship) is the proof. A homecoming would not be as tense as people dare to claim. The Australian star knows the house, having spent two years there: it would therefore be easier for him to adapt. He would especially find Esteban Ocon, his partner in 2020 with whom he formed a complementary duo: experience and speed on the one hand, youth and regularity on the other.
An inherently very fast driver despite McLaren’s malaise
If starting from Renault, the assessment of Daniel Ricciardo was the highest, the two years spent at McLaren have damaged his reputation. Chaining the poor performance, he became an “outcast” of the Oranges. The Australian is no longer desirable, he has lost his luster, but has he really lost all his talent in the space of a season and a half? Of course not. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes at McLaren? Is Ricciardo treated as well as Norris? In Formula 1, the mind counts for a lot. If a driver is not comfortable, it will show on the track. Not being able to find his family in the land of Oz for over a year due to Covid-19 has also affected him. The talent will always be there.
Daniel Ricciardo is a very fast driver, and that did not evaporate in Woking. He hasn’t had to prove himself for years, despite the many questions from the viewers. The Australian is an eight-time Grand Prix winner and last won with McLaren, at Monza last year. When the car suits him and he’s comfortable, Ricciardo is formidable. Its race management is worthy of an intelligent and experienced pilot. So imagine a vengeful Daniel Ricciardo at Alpine, ready to prove his worth in head-to-head competition with McLaren. If confidence returns, the 33-year-old driver could do badly, very badly.
Ricciardo, an international figure
For Alpine, a return of Ricciardo might seem, at first glance, an admission of weakness. Bringing back someone who ran away from home would be like calling your ex back after a breakup. The French team knows the value of the Australian. Beyond its qualities as a driver, it is also an image, a personality, a smile. Millions of fans worldwide and on social networks. Daniel Ricciardo is more than a driver: he’s an icon. Nothing better to advertise the brand with the A arrow.
Above all, “Danny Rick” he has the stature of a leader. He already proved it in 2020 with Renault, leading the team to the podiums. Certainly, should he return to Enstone in 2023, the question might arise. The team has committed to Esteban Ocon for his future in Formula 1: would it be a bad sign for the Norman to consider him equal or inferior to Daniel Ricciardo? The answer will come on the track, but the nature of the current McLaren driver is to lead the pack, not follow.
The “best of the rest” to join Alpine
Otmar Szafnauer recently mentioned again that he had received “14 calls from interested pilots” to get to Alpine. But after all, who better than Daniel Ricciardo? Pierre Gasly? It is hard to see Enstone’s team risking having two French drivers in their stable and whose relations are notoriously strained. Theo Pourchaire? Same problem as for Gasly and perhaps too fair to do so steps in such a well-placed team in Formula 1. Mick Schumacher? Not as prestigious as Ricciardo, and certainly not faster than the Australian. Colton Herta? That would be too big a risk for Alpine, especially since the American is contractually linked to McLaren, with whom he tested in Portimão in mid-July.
Eliminating these four candidates who seem the most “natural” for the second Alpine seat, it is difficult to find other names better placed than Daniel Ricciardo. Therefore, the only obstacle to the Australian’s return to Enstone would only be his responsibilities with the team. In the situation Alpine finds itself in at the moment, Rossi, Szafnauer and company have every interest in securing their backs rather than satisfying their egos.
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