Where are F1 2023 absentees Vettel, Ricciardo and Schumacher?
The new F1 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5, but the top three drivers will not line up on the grid.
One is the biggest star of the Drive to Survive boom, another is a four-time world champion and environmentalist, and the third has one of the most famous names in all of racing.
Here’s a look at what all three are doing this year and the likelihood of them racing F1 again.
Ricciardo has thrived in front of the Netflix cameras and has risen to the top of that wave in spectacular fashion, becoming one of the most popular and best-selling F1 drivers of the past few years. But in 2023, he still has no place in the race. Ricciardo and McLaren spent last year’s summer break negotiating an early termination of his three-season contract, with the team buying him out in his final season.
He returned to Red Bull where he raced from 2014 to 2018 and won seven races as a third driver. The role is largely marketing, although he will be working in a simulator at the Milton Keynes plant, which he is doing this week in preparation for the team’s opening race.
Judging by his Instagram feed, the Aussie was busy in the off-season, which included a trip to the Super Bowl – although his friend Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills were out – and an appearance on The Stephen Colbert Show the day before Red Bull unveiled their car. at an event in Manhattan.
Ricciardo’s return to his former team certainly raised the question of whether he could pose a threat to Sergio Pérez’s position in the team, but the Mexican driver has signed an extension through 2024 after winning last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. It would take Pérez something pretty impressive to leave the team at this point, and it’s hard to imagine Ricciardo wanting to return to F1 without a competitive car at his disposal.
Ricciardo also just released a new line of his clothing brand called FEA, which stands for “F— ’em all”, which seems to be a less subtle nod to his former employers.
For a fleeting moment just hours after the conclusion of last week’s F1 pre-season testing, it looked like Vettel could make a remarkable return to racing this week with his former Aston Martin team, with Lance Stroll’s injury status still unclear. Vettel retired after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.
Aston Martin quickly ended this by confirming reserve driver Felipe Drugovic would be a person to be replaced if needed, meaning Vettel is still retired for now. According to German media reports, Vettel was camping with his family when Aston Martin boss Mike Krak called to see how he was doing.
In typical Vettel fashion, he has been quiet since retiring.
He created Instagram just last year to announce his retirement, and within a few months, the account amassed 2.6 million followers. Now it’s used mainly to share photos of Vettel’s childhood and early racing career, and it’s obvious that he very rarely touches himself.
Prominent posts include Michael Schumacher, Vettel’s childhood hero, in a karting competition. Most posts contain the hashtag #Thereisstillaracetowin.
Vettel has been racing since leaving F1, taking part in the January Race of Champions partnering with Michael’s son Meek, who will also not be racing in 2023.
Vettel has yet to confirm what his next post-F1 racing project will be.
Like Ricciardo, Schumacher is still on the grid this year as third driver. After being dropped by both Haas, for whom he drove in 2020 and 2021, and the Ferrari driving academy, he was picked up by Mercedes. While his father was known for his tenure at Ferrari, he continued Schumacher’s long association with the Mercedes brand as Michael started his career with his support and then completed a three-year return to the team between 2010 and 2012.
Unlike Ricciardo, Schumacher was in F1 pre-season testing, overseeing the Mercedes program.
Schumacher will also be available for McLaren, which runs Mercedes engines, as a reserve driver this season, so he could replace Lando Norris or Oscar Piastri at certain events. McLaren also has IndyCar’s Alex Palou as a back-up, but 10 of 23 F1 races this year are against his North American commitment.
Schumacher is likely to figure prominently in the driver market speculation, which always starts in the middle of an F1 season. His experience in racing today’s generation of Formula One cars will stand him in good stead for any teams looking for a 2024 option, though whether he’s talented enough to deserve a second chance remains in the paddock.
At the presentation of the Mercedes car, Schumacher suggested that he had heard from the teams about next year.
Asked about a return, he said: “Well, obviously there are no guarantees, but I am in a comfortable position where I feel like I can learn. I can make the most of this year even if I’m not driving.
“But with the results I’ve shown in junior categories and also in F1, I’m sure there will be opportunities. In winter, several people have already mentioned that there is interest, so in that sense I’m not too worried.