Lewis Hamilton has insisted he has no plans on leaving Formula One in the near future after speculation that Mercedes were lining up Daniel Ricciardo as a potential replacement should the seven-time champion retire.
Ricciardo would not confirm or deny he was in talks with Mercedes but admitted he was exploring all possible options.
Two weeks ago McLaren announced they will replace Ricciardo with Oscar Piastri next season and the Australian’s chances of gaining a seat in F1 for 2023/24 are limited. Hamilton will turn 39 shortly after his current contract with Mercedes concludes at the end of next season and with the team off the pace this year, speculation has continued over whether he will race beyond 2023.
On Thursday morning it was reported that Mercedes did not want to risk being left short of a driver should Hamilton leave and that Ricciardo was under consideration to become Mercedes’ reserve driver in 2023, ready to step into his shoes if required.
Hamilton, who was sitting next to Ricciardo at the press conference before this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, dismissed suggestions he had plans to leave F1.
“For years we have been going up and down with stories of retirement and stopping,” he said. “I feel healthier than I have ever felt, I love what I am doing and I 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 entered discussions.
“The truth is I am keeping every option for next year and for the future,” he said. “I still don’t know what next year looks like. I do want to be on the grid, I do want to race. Although this has been a challenging time in my career, it hasn’t taken the love of the sport away from me, that desire to still be here.” Ricciardo’s main option to stay on the grid next year would be to join the Alpine team as a replacement for Fernando Alonso, who is joining Aston Martin.
Hamilton said he believed Ricciardo deserved better than to be a reserve driver at Mercedes but that he would welcome him if he joined the team.
“I think he should be racing,” he said. “He has earned the right to be amongst us all racing but of course if he is a part of our team that would be great. If I was his manager, he would be racing.”
Hamilton faces another trying weekend at Monza on track. After his team’s strategy call cost him a potential shot at a win at the last round in the Netherlands, he will have to take a power unit replacement in Italy which will relegate him to the back of the grid. Hamilton had crashed out in Spa after hitting Alonso and the damage his engine took in the incident has yet to be repaired so he is taking new components beyond his allocation, incurring penalties.
He is currently sixth in the world championship, 30 points behind his teammate, George Russell, and 152 off the leader, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.