Daniel Ricciardo is reportedly seeking a huge pay-out from McLaren should they try to replace him with Oscar Piastri for 2023.
The Australian has largely struggled since moving to the Woking-based Formula 1 team last year and while his contract runs until the end of 2023, it is believed that McLaren have run out of patience with the 33-year-old and may have already told him of their plans to drop him.
If the rumours are anything to go by, McLaren have agreed a deal with Formula 2 champion Piastri for next season, and with the thriving Lando Norris on a long-term contract with team, it is Ricciardo who will be asked to make way.
Piastri is currently the Alpine reserve driver and looked set to race for them with the French team announcing as much last week following the unexpected departure of Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin.
But the 21-year-old countered their statement just hours later, categorically claiming: ‘I will not be driving for Alpine next year.’
It seems that he has indeed signed to race for McLaren and while the issue of his contract with Alpine will no doubt need to be resolved, possibly in court, McLaren also need to get Ricciardo off their books, but that will not come cheap.
According to Australian publication Speedcafe, Ricciardo has the option to terminate his own contract prematurely, but McLaren do not, and with the balls in his court, the eight-time race winner has asked for $21million (£17.3m) in compensation for him to walk away from the team.
However, McLaren will be entitled to at least a partial refund if Ricciardo finds another seat for 2023, with said reimbursement coming out of the salary he would receive from his new team.
A similar situation occurred in 2009, when Ferrari signed Alonso for the following season even though they already had Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen under contract, with the latter eventually being handed a pay-out of around £20m.
Save from the past season-and-a-half, Ricciardo is considered one of the quickest drivers on the grid, and certainly one of the most marketable and will not be short of suitors.
However, while there are seats available at Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri, Haas and Williams, it remains to be seen whether Ricciardo is willing to drop down the order and if those smaller teams can meet his salary demands.
The most likely option therefore would be to return to Alpine, with whom he raced for from 2019-2020 when they were known as Renault, but while team principal Otmar Szafnauer has hinted that he is on their radar, Piastri is still their priority.
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