Lewis Hamilton has insisted he has no plans to leave Formula 1 in the near future after speculation Mercedes are queuing Daniel Ricardo as a potential replacement should the seven-time champion retire.
Ricciardo neither confirmed nor denied he was in talks with Mercedes, but admitted he was exploring all possible options.
Two weeks ago, McLaren announced that it would replace Ricciardo with Oscar Piastri next season and the Australian’s chances of securing an F1 seat for 2023/24 are limited. Hamilton will turn 39 shortly after his current contract with Mercedes ends at the end of next season and with the team behind this year, speculation continues over whether he will race beyond 2023.
On Thursday morning it was reported that Mercedes did not want to risk being short of a driver if Hamilton left and that Ricciardo was considered to become Mercedes’ reserve driver in 2023, ready to step into his shoes if necessary.
Hamilton, who sat next to Ricciardo at the press conference ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, dismissed suggestions he intended to quit F1.
“For years we’ve had our ups and downs with stories of retreating and quitting,” he said. “I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt, love what I do and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon – sorry, Dan.” When asked if he had been in talks with Mercedes, a guarded Ricciardo offered only a ‘no comment’, suggesting they had started discussions.
“The truth is that I’m saving all options for next year and for the future,” he said. “I still don’t know what next year will look like. I want to be on the grid, I want to race. Although it was a difficult period in my career, it did not take away the love of the sport, this desire to always be there. Ricciardo’s main option to remain on the grid next year would be to join the Alpine team as a replacement for Fernando Alonso, who is join Aston Martin.
Hamilton said he believed Ricciardo deserved better than being a reserve driver at Mercedes, but would welcome him if he joined the team.
“I think he should run,” he said. “He has earned the right to be among us all racing, but of course if he is in our team it would be great. If I was his manager he would be racing.
Hamilton faces another testing weekend at Monza on track. After his team’s strategic call cost him a potential chance to win in the last round in the netherlands, he will have to take a powertrain replacement in Italy which will relegate him to the back of the grid. Hamilton crashed at Spa after hitting Alonso and the damage to his engine sustained in the incident has not yet been repaired, so he takes new components beyond his allowance, incurring penalties.
He is currently sixth in the World Championship, 30 points behind team-mate George Russell and 152 behind leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
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