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Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 season has got off to an underwhelming start and the rumour mill is already in full swing over how much time he has left in the sport.

Daniel Ricciardo has had a tough start to the season. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

 

 

So far this year, the Australian has finished 14th in Bahrain, DNF in Saudi Arabia, sixth in Melbourne and 18th in Imola.

 

 

Ricciardo has only finished in the points once so far — at the Australian Grand Prix — but he was been way down the grid in the other races because of either technical issues with his car or mistakes of his own.

 

He collided into Carlos Sainz on the opening lap of last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy, ending the Ferrari’s race and ruining his own.

 

 

Ricciardo was last of the drivers who finished the race. Afterwards, he admitted he was in the wrong and made the effort to go inside Ferrari’s motor home to apologise to Sainz personally.

 

Ricciardo finished eighth in the drivers championship last year and despite being only four races into a 23-race calendar, there’s a sense the season could already be slipping away from him.

 

 

He is currently 11th in the drivers standings and there is already talk among F1 circles about whether McLaren is already looking to the future and considering a replacement for Ricciardo.

Would McLaren dump Ricciardo before his contract runs out? (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images

 

The 32-year-old is contracted with the UK-based team until the end of the 2023 season, but McLaren could reportedly give him the flick before then.

 

 

According to veteran F1 reporter Joe Saward, McLaren have their eyes on 22-year-old IndyCar star and McLaren development driver Colton Herta as someone who could take over Ricciardo’s seat on the grid.

 

 

“Daniel Ricciardo seems a little lost at McLaren and there continues to be rumours that in 2024 (if not earlier) Daniel will be replaced by Colton Herta, the American who Zak Brown believes could open the gates of Formula 1 to corporate America,” Saward wrote in his column.

 

 

“We will have to see if Herta has everything needed to be an F1 star, but he seems to have the speed.”

 

 

As part of his McLaren deal, Herta is set to test the McLaren MCL35M this year.

 

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has confirmed there is a plan in place for testing the car, but didn’t go into specifics.

 

 

“Yes, we’ve now got a plan installed for Colton,” Brown told RACER.

 

 

“That’s up to (McLaren team principal) Andreas Seidl to communicate that outwardly when he’s ready to communicate it. But yes, we have a plan.”

 

 

Such a bold move to replace Ricciardo before his contract runs out would likely end his F1 career.

 

Ricciardo’s time at McLaren has been plagued by a trend of technical issues with his car, underwhelming results and finishing behind his teammate Lando Norris.

 

 

Norris is contracted with McLaren until the end of the 2025 season after he signed a monster $94 million deal earlier this year.

 

 

 

Before the start of the season, Brown assured McLaren would be sticking with Ricciardo until at least the end of 2023.

“Right now, we don’t have a seat available,” Brown said.

 

 

“Lando is under a very long-term contract, so that seat is done.

 

 

“Daniel, we have another couple (of) years with him.”

 

 

The F1 season resumes at the Miami Grand Prix on Monday 9 May (AEST).

 

 

 

 

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