Mercedes are fretting over who they can pair with George Russell when Hamilton departs at the end of the year. One name that has been brought up is Ricciardo, who returned to Formula One last season with AlphaTauri.
His contract with the team now known as Visa Cash App RB runs until 2024, which seemingly would allow him to leave for Mercedes at the end of the season should he desire to do so.
However, Marko has claimed that Ricciardo is committed to Red Bull long-term. He waved away F1-insider’s idea that the Aussie could join Toto Wolff’s outfit, before explaining: “Ricciardo still has a long-term contract and is not available.”
Ricciardo will be aware that there is the possibility of another seat becoming available at the end of the year, currently held by Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver has just one season left on his current deal and it is an open secret that he wants to take over as Max Verstappen’s team-mate.
“There’s no thoughts or expectations beyond that (current contract),” Christian Horner told F1 Nation when Ricciardo returned to F1 with AlphaTauri. “We’ve loaned him to AlphaTauri to the end of the year. Obviously, our drivers are going to be Max and Checo again next year, but it’s always good to have talent in reserve.
“I think [the way] Daniel is viewing AlphaTauri, he firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull. That’s his golden objective. And by going to AlphaTauri, I think he sees that as his best route of stating his case for 2025.”
Wolff has already pledged to seek out the best possible option to replace Hamilton when asked about the prospect of Verstappen trading Red Bull for Mercedes, but if he wants to pinch one of the defending Constructors champions’ stars their likeliest option currently is Perez.
With Ricciardo ruled out by Marko, the Silver Arrows do have several other options to look at in the next 12 months. Carlos Sainz could go in the opposite direction to Hamilton with his Ferrari deal up at the end of the season, pairing the Spaniard with Russell similarly to how he has worked with Charles Leclerc.
Alex Albon would also be an exciting option after impressing at Williams under Wolff’s former right-hand man James Vowley, or Mercedes could turn to one of their academy products such as Andrea Kimi Antonelli.