The two-time world champion has yet to announce his plans for next year, which may or may not see him remain in F1 or move to IndyCar as he seeks the final instalment of his Triple Crown dream.
If he remains in F1, it will likely be with McLaren, for Christian Horner has ruled out any hope of the Spaniard joining the Austrian team.
“I’ve got huge respect for Fernando, he’s a great, fantastic driver, but it would be very difficult to see,” Horner told the official F1 website in a recent podcast.
“He’s tended to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone,” he added, though opting not to expand on the matter. “I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join.
“Our preference would be to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who is obviously close to the end of his career,” he concluded, somewhat diplomatically.”
While the Spaniard is known to be high maintenance and has earned a reputation as being somewhat ‘Teflon-coated’, having played a part in two of the biggest scandals to rock the sport in the modern era – Spygate and Crashgate – yet emerged the other side almost untouched.
That said, he helped McLaren during its most difficult days during its recent unfulfilled partnership with Honda, even if some claim that in the process the Spaniard has been allowed too much power within Woking.
As for replacements for Ricciardo, without naming names, Horner doesn’t appear unduly worried about finding a suitable talent to place alongside Verstappen next year.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve got several drivers under contract that are great talents,” he said. “I think we’re going to sit back and evaluate what the situation is, see what comes out.
“It’s an incredibly attractive car to be driving,” he added, “I don’t think we’re going to be short of requests and offers. We’ll look at everything. The preferred route will be to invest, as has been so successful, in home talent: Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly – they are all products of the junior programme that have delivered for us.
“Both of those guys are very quick,” he said of Sainz and Gasly, “so I think this just gives us opportunity to take a breath.
“They’re under contract anyway till the end of the summer or beyond. We’ll look at the options available to us and make sure we make the right decision for the team.”