Mika Hakkinen expects to see Daniel Ricciardo back on a Formula 1 grid in the future - and believes his year off in 2023 is different to his own sabbatical, which later turned into retirement. Ricciardo lost his McLaren seat at the end of the 2022 campaign after poor performances alongside Lando Norris and was not able to rectify the problems. With no other race seats available - or appealing - for 2023, Ricciardo is set for at least one year on the sidelines as third driver at Red Bull - the team he left in 2018. Double World Champion Hakkinen believes that it is just a case of Ricciardo rediscovering his mojo - and that there is one major difference between Ricciardo's situation and when the Finn stepped back in 2001.
Hakkinen on Ricciardo
"Daniel is a good driver, but after some years in F1 a break can be important," Hakkinen wrote in his usual Unibet column. "When I retired from F1, McLaren team boss Ron Dennis convinced me to call it a sabbatical, but I knew I would not be coming back. "I think Daniel is different – he has had a couple of tough seasons and just needs to rediscover his motivation. At 33 years of age, he has time on his side." Ricciardo has made it clear he wants a return to full-time Grand Prix racing after his year away, in which he will be completing marketing and demo work for Red Bull while shadowing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Praise for Bottas
Elsewhere, Hakkinen was full of praise for the efforts of compatriot Valtteri Bottas - whose strong early season form was key for Alfa Romeo in securing sixth in the Constructors' Championship. Both Alfa and Aston Martin were level on 55 points, but thanks to Bottas' fifth-place finish at Imola, the Swiss team secured P6 on countback, as Aston's best finish was sixth for Sebastian Vettel in Azerbaijan and Japan and Lance Stroll at the Singapore GP. "I am so happy for Valtteri because Alfa Romeo signed him to bring his experience to the team and he really delivered," Hakkinen explained. "For a smaller team, the first part of this season was going to be super important because, as the season progresses, the bigger teams always become more competitive. "In the first nine races Valtteri scored points seven times, including that fifth at Imola, and his points finishes in Mexico and Brazil were a fantastic way to end the season. "For Alfa Romeo to finish behind McLaren and in front of Aston Martin is a great achievement and hopefully there is more to come next season."