Jolyon Palmer has questioned Daniel Ricciardo's "strange" potential move to a reserve driver role for 2023.
The Australian was left without an F1 seat after a mutual decision by himself and McLaren to terminate his multi-year contract early, meaning that he will leave the team at the end of the 2022 campaign.
Ricciardo has yet to confirm his plans for next year, but has acknowledged that taking a reserve position with another Formula 1 team is a possibility, having ruled out the idea of being on the grid.
It comes after the 33-year-old put in a strong recovery drive at the Mexican Grand Prix to finish P7, despite receiving a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision.
Palmer 'surprised' by possible Ricciardo reserve role
During a discussion on the F1 Nation podcast, Damon Hill acknowledged that Ricciardo had seemed in high spirits at Mexico amid rumours of a possible reserve role, something that Palmer was slightly confused by.
"I'm surprised he's smiling all that much about that, to be honest," Palmer said.
"The Daniel Ricciardo that we know and love is the guy that is there racing in the way that he did in Mexico, and he's charging through the field and he's chucking in some lunges.
"He loves the wheel-to-wheel racing of it, and it was so good to see a spring in his step after that Grand Prix.
"I think it'll be really important to him that he goes out with these next two [races] in that tone because then, when you've got a year on the sidelines, you can think back to that and not your terrible nine months before.
"But the third driver thing is strange to me."
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Can Ricciardo return to the F1 grid in 2024?
With speculation of a possible reserve position at Mercedes for Ricciardo, Hill questioned whether the eight-time race winner could find himself in contention for a race seat there should Lewis Hamilton opt to retire at the end of 2023.
While this currently seems unlikely for Hamilton – given his recent declaration that he hopes to sign another multi-year contract with his team – Palmer does not think that Ricciardo would be the most desirable candidate in this situation.
"If Lewis does suddenly retire at the end of next year, having won the title, I don't think you are [looking at a situation where Ricciardo would get the seat]," the ex-F1 driver commented.
"Let's face it; McLaren aren't putting him in, Alpine didn't want him. Are Mercedes, at the top end, fighting for titles, going to want to put him in at the end of the two years that he's had? I don't think so."
Palmer believes that a stronger option for Ricciardo would be to remain on the grid in 2023.
"So I think the way that he rebuilds his career from here is to be on the grid and get results, because you can't get results as a third driver," he added.
"That's the really frustrating thing of it."
Palmer believes 2023 race seat better for Ricciardo
Palmer – who left F1 after being dropped by Renault before the end of the 2017 season – admits that he cannot understand Ricciardo's exact situation, but still believes that taking a seat at Haas or Williams would have been better options for the Australian.
"Because I'm not Daniel, I don't know what is going on in his head," Palmer said.
"And after, certainly this year of just being beaten and slightly humbled really by [Lando] Norris at McLaren, and the vibe of the whole team clearly going against him and they've got his contract out early...
"Maybe that – I know from my experience of being dropped basically by Renault – is a little bit demoralising. Maybe he's a bit done with it, he wants a bit of time out and he wants to just relax for the first time in over a decade in his career.
"So if that's the case, then maybe a third driver role is not bad for him. But if he wants to still prove himself and he thinks he can get back on the grid, and he's still got the energy to go for it, for me, the option is a Haas seat or a Williams seat, that was until [Logan] Sargeant was confirmed there.
"A bit like Alex Albon; Alex Albon was in Red Bull, he was looking like the next big thing, had a bad year against Max [Verstappen], got dropped, and now he's looking like it again. You put him in the bracket of a really solid midfielder."
Video: F1 pit-stops under two seconds are allowed (and THIS is why)
At the Mexico City Grand Prix, McLaren became the first team to complete a sub-two second pit-stop since the introduction of the new F1 pit-stop regulations, changing all four tyres on Daniel Ricciardo's car in 1.98 seconds.
So how did the team do this, and what changes have been made to F1's pit-stop procedure in the last couple of years?