SAINT-TROPEZ, FRANCE — Max Verstappen believes it will be a “shame” if Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t return to the Formula One grid in the years to come.
While Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez says the Australian is in a “luxury position” despite being bought out from his final year at McLaren for his compatriot Oscar Piastri.
The Formula One world has been rocked in recent weeks by Ricciardo’s fall from grace.
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It was not long ago that Ricciardo was the poster boy at Red Bull but the emergence of Verstappen – the defending F1 champion who is poised to go back to back – put in motion a series of unfortunate events for the Australian, who was not content being the number two driver.
But after largely unsuccessful moves to, first, Renault and, second, McLaren, Ricciardo’s career is at crossroads, with the 33-year-old likely to be forced out of next season’s F1 campaign.
Ricciardo seemingly let the cat out of the bag during his disaster in the Netherlands, where he finished 17th at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Speaking with Red Bull’s Perez, Ricciardo was heard saying, “Take (a) year off and come back in 2024”.
The conversation has only darkened Ricciardo’s future despite recent reports linking him to a potentially sensational move to Mercedes as their reserve driver.
Verstappen, who pushed further ahead in the driver’s championship with victory at the Dutch GP, said he hoped his former teammate would find a home again – even if it is not next year.
“Yeah, I mean, Daniel is a great driver,” Verstappen told Foxsports.com.au, speaking from St Tropez where the Dutch driver joined the Team USA and Team Australia SailGP teams.
“We had a really good time when we’re together. He was a really nice guy to work with as well.
“Yes, he has had his difficulties at McLaren. The car just didn’t really suit his driving style.
“But yeah, I hope he can continue because I think he still has a lot left in him to perform.
“I really hope that he will get a seat somewhere in F1, so he can show his talent again.”
Ricciardo left Red Bull after Team Principal Christian Horner backed Verstappen in as the team’s premier driver.
The decision saw Ricciardo leave his post early, a decision many have questioned whether it was the right move.
“Well he had a contract for one more year but at one point, you know, sometimes it’s better to say ‘hey, this is not working out, we need to find something new’,” Verstappen said of Ricciardo’s decision.
“I think it’s for both sides, for the team and for himself. So this might actually be good for him.”
Asked whether he backed Ricciardo to return to the F1 grid should he take a year off, Verstappen seemed to suggest that his colleagues would be missing out on the Australian if they didn’t go after him.
“I think to let him go will be a shame,” he said.
“Yeah, for sure.”
Perez, 32, has faced similar uncertainties as Ricciardo.
Red Bull gave the Mexican a lifeline last year after Aston Martin, previously Racing Point, signed Sebastian Vettel as their driver for 2021.
Perez, who is tied second on the championship driver’s standings in a huge result for Red Bull with seven circuits remaining on the calendar, said being forced to take a step back can be beneficial.
“There’s many ways to look at it,” Perez told foxsports.com.au.
“He’s 33, he has been in Formula One for so many years, he’s been in top teams, he’s had big victories, he’s had a good career.
“In our sport it’s very difficult to have such a good career for so many years, to stay at the top level for so many years.
“Sometimes when we are racing and we are into it, we don’t really see the big picture.
“But when that happened to me, I sat back and all of a sudden realised: well, I’m not in such a bad position any more because it’s not like if that happened when you’re in your second or third season. It’s quite different, he is 33 and it will be up to him to decide what to do next.”
Indeed, Perez said Ricciardo was in a “luxury position” and the ball was in his court regarding his future.
“This is how our sport works. Sometimes you end up in situations where you don’t expect to be,” Perez said.
“Daniel has had such a career.
“He’s done so many years in the sport that he can do what he wants, because he can come back to the sport, he can take a year out.
“He has a luxury position, let’s put it that way.
“It’s up to him on what he wants to do next in his career.”