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Formula 1

Why Alpine had no desire to re-sign Daniel Ricciardo for 2023

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

In pursuit of a driver to fill the void left by Fernando Alonso, Alpine never seriously entertained the prospect of re-signing Daniel Ricciardo for the 2023 Formula 1 season.

Instead, once Alpine realised it had lost out on both Alonso and Oscar Piastri over the summer, it quickly set its sights on Pierre Gasly to partner Esteban Ocon.

Now Ricciardo has openly admitted he is not going to be on the F1 grid in 2023, as he is either not interested in – or not on the radar of – the only remaining teams with vacancies, Haas and Williams.

Alpine is obviously not directly responsible for that but the fact it never pursued Ricciardo means it removed his only seriously competitive option on the table once it became clear he would be leaving McLaren.

Ricciardo only left Renault’s works team at the end of 2020 to join McLaren but his time there has been a major disappointment and he is being shuffled out one year before the end of his contract.

That means a multiple grand prix winner has been on the market for as long as Alpine has known for sure it needed a new driver, but Alpine was not interested. In fact, it was willing to spurn a multiple grand prix-winning free agent to chase a driver under contract elsewhere.

When The Race asked Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer if Ricciardo was considered and why he was not pursued, he replied: “Well, at the beginning we discussed with a few drivers, including Daniel.

“Pierre meets the criteria to a tee – he’s experienced, fast and young.

“So, when it became evident that Pierre was a possibility we made our shortlist even shorter.”

That doesn’t really answer the question, so we have to read between the lines a bit.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Race Day Imola, Italy

Does Ricciardo really not meet the same criteria? Gasly does have a few years on him. But Ricciardo’s only 33, so he’s seven years’ Alonso’s junior and should be in his peak with at least a few seasons in the tank.

Experience is also a given. And fast? Well, that is a legitimate question mark. It depends on the environment and the car. It didn’t work at McLaren. But it was extremely successful at Renault.

There are two obvious scenarios. Either there were serious doubts about his capabilities to return to that form after two bruising years at McLaren that have damaged his stock or some people just didn’t want to work with Ricciardo again after he left Renault just two years ago.

And the prevailing theory for Alpine dismissing Ricciardo early in the process is that Renault boss Luca de Meo was completely against re-hiring the man who walked out on the works team just two years ago having been hired at great expense. Especially as that same man has now been rejected by the team Alpine’s on course to beat in the championship.

Ricciardo’s loss is Gasly’s gain. Alpine is clearly very happy to roll the dice on him, given the Frenchman’s form has also fluctuated this season at AlphaTauri with a car less to his liking.

Gasly offers Alpine a lot. He can be a long-term option for the team, it is a clear step up for him into a works team environment so his motivation cannot be questioned, and he comes with a high ceiling of performance (even though it is not always guaranteed).

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Preparation Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

He’s also French, which must be a relatively significant factor as it was de Meo’s opening line in the team’s official announcement: “We are proud to present an all-French driver line up from 2023.”

Szafnauer has described Gasly’s nationality as a bonus and maybe it’s all de Meo intended that to be. But that, along with the belief he did not want to go back to Ricciardo, indicates that optics played a part at some stage in Alpine’s driver decision.

Ultimately, Alpine could easily present a pretty significant body of evidence against signing Ricciardo, just as it could reel off plenty of reasons in favour of Gasly. Ricciardo would have been a high-upside gamble and Alpine decided not to take it.

There is every chance this will prove to be the right decision, even if the hint of a desire from on-high not to work with Ricciardo again means it was made for what some will perceive to be the wrong reasons.

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