Daniel Ricciardo readies for a mixed-bag return to Australian Grand Prix

29 March, 2023

Daniel Ricciardo is all set for a return to the Australian Grand Prix this weekend without a car but still with plenty of local support at Albert Park, as the sporting hub Melbourne prepares for its biggest weekend of the year. A lot of fans have been tipping this race as the “fastest race in Melbourne ever”, keeping plenty of fans very excited. 

After being ousted by McLaren last year and replaced with young Australian Oscar Piastri, the fan favourite Ricciardo will endure the bittersweet experience of watching his home grand prix from the outer as his former team battle to get off the ground floor in 2023.

McLaren and AlphaTauri are off to a horrible start in 2023, having picked up zero points in two races and are r dead last in the constructors’ standings. Multiple engine failures meant Piastri couldn’t finish his debut in Bahrain and, although the Melbourne rookie overtook teammate Lando Norris, McLaren still finished 15th.

Historically, the F1 season kicks off in Melbourne but this year the 58-lap event will be the third race of the 2023 calendar after races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, both of which saw Red Bull drivers taker the top two spots. A record 419,114 fans attended last year’s Australian GP, making it the biggest sporting weekend in Melbourne’s history.

This year’s talking point is a resurfaced track with some radical changes. Organisers have introduced a fourth DRS zone, located along the back of the circuit between Turns 6 and 11, and removed the chicane at Turns 9 and 10. The drastic remodelling is fuelling hopes this year’s Australian GP will be the “fastest race in Melbourne ever”.

“You’ve got the evolution of the cars from last year, and the fourth DRS zone means the cars will be quicker around the back of the circuit,” Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott said. “[It] will obviously increase speed and therefore lap time and make it the quickest Grand Prix and the highest average speed ever in Melbourne.”

Norris has finished 17th in both races, accelerating speculation the highly touted 23-year-old Belgian-Briton could be in Mercedes’ sights when Lewis Hamilton retires. That could open up a seat for Ricciardo in the 2024 season. As it stands, leaving McLaren might be the best career move he has made, with reports the 33-year-old walked away with a contract termination worth up to $24m. Visit Nextbet for more information about F1 and betting.