Ricciardo is set to lose his McLaren drive for next year with current Alpine F1 junior Oscar Piastri in the frame to be Lando Norris’ teammate.
The news comes after a series of announcements, triggered by Sebastian Vettel’s surprise retirement ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix and Aston Martin quickly replacing him with Fernando Alonso for 2023.
Shortly after, Alpine announced Piastri as Alonso’s replacement but the 2021 F2 champion denied that he would be driving for the French outfit next year, hinting that he had found another drive elsewhere.
However, Ricciardo’s contract runs until the end of 2023, with no escape clauses in his current contract, Speedcafe reports.
With the power on Ricciardo’s side, McLaren might have to pay him off to terminate the contract a year early.
Speedcafe also reports that if Ricciardo is able to secure a drive for next year (should his McLaren contract be terminated), McLaren would be refunded whatever he earns with his new team.
The Australian has been tipped to return to Alpine after spending two seasons with the Enstone outfit in 2019 and 2020.
Ricciardo enjoyed one of his best seasons in F1 during his final year with the team, finishing on the podium twice.
The Ricciardo saga is the crucial cog as the 2023 F1 driver line-up takes shape.
He is reportedly paid £12.2m by McLaren for this season, making him the joint-fifth highest earner on the grid.
Piastri case could end up in high court
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says the team could seek millions in compensation if Piastri refuses to drive for the team.
Alpine has already been in contact with the FIA’s contract recognition board but may take it one step further.
“Going to the High Court is over 90% certain that’s what we’ll do,” he told Reuters.
“If the CRB says ‘your licence is only valid at Alpine’, and then he (Piastri) says ‘that’s great but I’m never driving for them, I’ll just sit out a year’, then you’ve got to go to the High Court for compensation.”