Despite having a contract in place for the 2023 F1 season, Daniel Ricciardo’s future with McLaren is under scrutiny again.

Highly-rated IndyCar driver Colton Herta tested for the team on Tuesday at Portimao, with American in the frame to drive for McLaren in either 2023 or 2024.

A report by the BBC claimed that Sebastian Vettel, Alexander Albon and Oscar Piastri are also in contention to replace Ricciardo, should the Australian’s spell with the Woking outfit come to an end.

Will Ricciardo stay?

The Australian has defiantly said: "I'm not walking away."

After ending 2020 as one of F1’s best performers with Renault, many expected Ricciardo to lead McLaren to great success.

Besides his shock victory at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo has endured a miserable time, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon.

Ricciardo’s struggles have coincided with Lando Norris’ remarkable progress, establishing himself in the top bracket of drivers behind Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

The 32-year-old does have a contract for next year, and with his rumoured salary of around £20 million, it’s hard to think Ricciardo would want to bow out of McLaren prematurely.

However, in performance terms, there’s little sign of him improving.

He’s out-qualified teammate Norris twice in 11 races, with the average gap between the pair at 0.3s in the British driver’s favour.

Even at the most recent Austrian Grand Prix, Ricciardo failed to out-qualify Norris despite missing FP1 and running an older engine.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown hinted there are “mechanisms” within Ricciardo’s current F1 contract that could allow for an early break in his deal.

“I don’t want to get into the contract, but there are mechanisms in which we’re committed to each other, and mechanisms in which we’re not,” Brown said in Monaco. 

“I spoke with Daniel about it. We’re not getting the results that we both hoped for, but we’re both going to continue to push. I think he showed in Monza [last year] he can win races. We also need to develop our race car; it’s not capable of winning races. But we’d like to see him further up the grid.

“And we’ll see how things develop and what he wants to do. And then we’ve got our testing programme ramping up, but we’re in no rush.”

Ricciardo’s lack of form may cost McLaren fourth in the constructors’ championship with Alpine moving level with the team after Austria.

McLaren will want to strengthen their driver roster for 2023, and while the benefits for Ricciardo financially are clear, from a racing perspective, finding a new challenge is the only solution.

Who could replace him?

Sebastian Vettel

One of three drivers that have been linked with McLaren is Sebastian Vettel.

The German is out of contract at the end of the year, and with Aston Martin still struggling for performance, retirement could even be a possibility. 

Vettel has often expressed his love for the history and tradition of the sport, so McLaren being one of F1’s most successful, historic teams - something that would appeal to him.

While Vettel isn’t perhaps the driver he once was, he’s still proven to be a very capable driver.

A Vettel-Norris line up would be a mouthwatering prospect, and one McLaren could rely on whether it has race-winning or midfield machinery.

Alex Albon

A longer-term option could be Alex Albon.

After being dropped by Red Bull at the end of 2020 in favour of Sergio Perez, it was uncertain whether Albon would get another chance in F1. 

He’s made his return for 2022 with Williams, and he’s grasped the opportunity with both hands.

Albon has scored points twice already in the worst car on the 2022 field while comprehensively beating Nicholas Latifi.

Reminiscent of George Russell’s performances with the team across the last three seasons, Albon has been very impressive.

Oscar Piastri

Reigning F2 champion Oscar Piastri looks all set to be confirmed as a Williams driver for next year, replacing Latifi.

However, Piastri has been linked with the Woking-based outfit to replace his fellow countryman.

With Fernando Alonso set to remain with Alpine for another season, Piastri will need to leave the Enstone outfit to find a seat in F1. 

Piastri is the most unlikely of the options given there would be a sizable risk behind it and getting Alpine to hand over their star driver seems unlikely, even on loan.

Colton Herta

The final driver in the frame is Colton Herta.

Herta has impressed during his time in IndyCar, becoming the series’ youngest-ever winner in 2019 and taking six career victories so far.

While his 2022 campaign hasn’t gone entirely to plan for Herta, he remains America’s most exciting young talent.

Should Herta continue to impress in IndyCar and his recent F1 test outing, a reunion with Norris could be on the cards with the pair teaming up at Carlin back in 2015 during their MSA Formula campaign.

F1 needs an American driver on the grid which brings other benefits to the team besides his outstanding raw talent. 

Fellow IndyCar racer Alex Palou could also emerge as a potential candidate after being added to McLaren's driver roster for 2023. The 2021 IndyCar champion will also test McLaren's F1 car as part of the deal.