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Old boss backs Ricciardo for 2023 reprieve; star to race in Singapore despite ICU scare: F1 Pit Talk

Old boss backs Ricciardo for 2023 reprieve; star to race in Singapore despite ICU scare: F1 Pit Talk

The days tick down and still there’s no contract for Daniel Ricciardo in 2023.

The situation appears to heading steadfastly in the direction of a year off for the eight-time winner, who hasn’t been able to land a deal at the only team that might offer him a shot at redemption: Alpine, the squad he spurned to move to McLaren.

But he’s received the backing of at least one former employer who wants to see the popular Australian on the grid next season.

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Christian Horner says it would be a shame for Ricciardo’s iconic driving style and well-loved character to be lost to the paddock, at least without a shot at redemption, and says the French team should reconsider its position on its former star driver.

It’s unlikely to be enough to sway the matter, but it’s nice to have friends in high places.

Meanwhile, Alex Albon says he’ll be on track this weekend in Singapore despite being barely two weeks out of intensive care following an episode of respiratory arrest, but the Thai driver is determined to return to the cockpit for the closest thing he has to a home race.

And F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn has backed Lewis Hamilton to bounce back from his difficult 2022, likening it to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari struggles in the late 1990s.

HORNER WOULD HIRE RICCIARDO IF HE WERE ALPINE BOSS

Christian Horner says that he “probably would” hire Daniel Ricciardo if he were the Alpine team principal.

Ricciardo is without a 2023 contract after being sacked by McLaren, and despite early talks between the Australian and Alpine in August, the French team has decided against rehiring him after he sensationally walked out of the team at the end of 2020 for his ill-fated Woking switch.

There are also question marks about why he’s struggled so badly at McLaren.

But his former Red Bull Racing boss, Christian Horner, has told the Beyond the Grid podcast that Alpine should swallow its pride and sign up the Australian, remembering how well the partnership clicked in its final season.

“I think I probably would [sign him], to be honest with you,” he said. “They obviously know him from a couple of seasons ago and he was very together during his last season there, scoring podiums, and I think he is the type of guy I think you could rebuild him.

“It’s obviously been not a great experience for him [at McLaren] for whatever reason. You’ve just got to think back to some of the drives that he did for us, some of the wins that he had, the podiums, some of the stunning overtakes that he was capable of.

“That’s still in there, I am sure, and it just needs a bit of a reset.”

Mark Thompson/Getty Images/AFPMark Thompson/Getty Images/AFP
Mark Thompson/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

Horner suggested a change of scenery might prove a needed boost for Ricciardo in recovering his old trademark form.

“Like in all sports, confidence is a big element,” Horner said. “For whatever reason he hasn’t got the feeling for the car across two sets of regulations, and that’s probably eked away at his confidence.

“But there is still a very, very capable driver in there. You don’t just forget how to deliver.

“So, I hope for him he gets another opportunity and gets himself back on the grid for next year.

“[It] is a great shame, because I think he is a big personality and he is a great, great driver. He has obviously lost his way a bit, but it would be great to see him remain in the sport.”

The only other vacant seats on the grid are with the inconsistent Haas team and the backmarking Williams outfit, but a substantial step backwards into the midfield does not appear to appeal to Ricciardo after more than 11 years in the sport.

ALBON SET TO RACE IN SINGAPORE

Alex Albon says he’ll return to his Williams cockpit for the Singapore Grand Prix despite being released from intensive care barely two weeks ago.

Albon missed the Italian Grand Prix when he was diagnosed with appendicitis, for which he undertook a laparoscopic appendectomy on the Saturday night before the race.

The following Monday the team released a statement saying that the 26-year-old had suffered an “unexpected post-operative anaesthetic complication” and subsequently experienced respiratory failure, for which he placed into intensive care.

The Thai driver recovered quickly and was released from hospital to recover at home that Tuesday, around 16 days ago.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

He said at the time that Singapore was his targeted return race, aided by the unusual two weekends off between grands prix, and this week he confirmed he is still on track to be in the car on Friday evening for first practice.

“My preparation for Singapore has been a little different than normal, but I’m feeling good,” he said in a statement.

“It’s a great street circuit and the closest race to home for me in Thailand, so I’m really excited to be here and to see the fans that have turned out.”

The Singapore Grand Prix is arguably the most physically challenging races on the Formula 1 calendar. Humidity constantly hovers between a suffocating 70 and 80 per cent, and with the ambient temperature rarely cooler than 26°C, drivers experience a cockpit temperature around the 60°C mark.

The narrow 23-turn street circuit itself is also extremely challenging, and at 5.063 kilometres, it regularly gets close to the maximum two-hour race limit.

“I’ve done everything possible to get ready for one of the most physical races on the calendar,” Albon said.

“I am not underestimating how big of a challenge this is going to be, but I am looking forward to hitting the track on Friday and getting back driving.”

Nyck de Vries will be on standby to replace Albon if he’s unable to continue beyond first practice.

BRAWN SEES SCHUMACHER COMPARISON IN HAMILTON STRUGGLES

Ross Brawn has backed Lewis Hamilton to bounce back from his character-building 2022 season, likening it to the travails of Michael Schumacher at Mercedes and in his early Ferrari years.

Hamilton is facing his first-ever season as a professional racing driver without a victory as Mercedes struggles to fully grasp the new regulations for this season, and how quickly the German giant can turn its form around in following seasons remains to be seen.

F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn told Germany’s F1 Insider he sees parallels between Hamilton’s situation and that faced by Schumacher upon his return to the rebuilding Mercedes team in 2010.

“This year, for the first time in a long time, he has a car that he can‘t win with, so he’s putting a lot of energy into trying to change that,” he said. “For him, this time is a kind of character test.

“You can compare Lewis’s situation a bit to Michael‘s comeback with Mercedes.

“As a driver you always have to decide whether you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

“Michael redefined his role then, so he was part of the solution and helped build the team that went on to win eight constructors titles in a row.

“He sacrificed himself, so to speak, for the future of the team and played a decisive role in the foundation of its success.”

MORE MOTORSPORT

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NUMBER CRUNCH: How Verstappen can win the title this weekend

PICK UP THE PHONE: Haas boss reiterates Ricciardo offer

Brawn said he was confident that Lewis would bounce back to his winning ways if given the chance, likening he struggles to another moment in Schumacher’s career, when he joined the struggling Ferrari team in 1996 before taking the team to title success in 1999 and winning the drivers championship the following year.

“Lewis will come back, I‘m convinced,” he said. “Just like his team. I believe that periods of weakness that you have to overcome make you even stronger. I know that from my own experience.

“You have to remember that we narrowly lost three world titles before we made it at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher in 2000.

“The three years before were a tough test. The team could have fallen apart out of disappointment. But the opposite was the case: we grew even closer together and got better. We learned a lot and finally turned our weaknesses into strengths.”

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