Ricciardo will make his first appearance as Red Bull’s reserve driver at his home race in Melbourne’s Albert Park, where he will be on standby for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. 

Can Red Bull win every race this season?

However, barring unexpected circumstances, the 33-year-old’s weekend will largely consist of marketing activities and catching up with old friends. 

Although Ricciardo’s F1 return will be bittersweet, particularly as he watches his compatriot (and replacement) Oscar Piastri take part in his first home grand prix, there is a case that his absence from the grid is something of a blessing in disguise. 

Following McLaren’s decision to drop Ricciardo, the Woking-based outfit have endured a miserable winter and start to the new season. 

The British squad are yet to score a point in the opening two rounds and sit anchored to the bottom of the constructors’ championship after being hamstrung by reliability issues and a lack of performance.

There has been turmoil off-track too, with Andreas Seidl’s early departure to Alfa Romeo Sauber followed by technical director James Key’s exit after the team conceded it had missed key development targets in the off-season.

Amid McLaren’s apparent downfall, Ricciardo must be breathing a sigh of relief. Not only is he not having to drive a bad car, he is getting the break he wanted, as well as pocketing a reported £18m as a result of his contract termination.

There may also be some slight vindication for Ricciardo and his fans that not all of McLaren’s problems were necessarily related to the Australian. 

So were McLaren right to get rid of Ricciardo? Probably. It is too early to properly judge his replacement Piastri but given the extent of Ricciardo’s underwhelming performances over two seasons - Monza high aside - a change was needed.

Despite all of McLaren’s problems, Piastri has looked more of a match for Lando Norris than Ricciardo did in just two races. And one would assume the highly-rated Piastri’s ceiling is much higher considering he is in the early days of his F1 career. 

Will Ricciardo ever return full-time?

At Red Bull’s pre-season launch, Ricciardo said his experience being back in the paddock in Australia would “tell me quite a lot” about his desire to return on a full-time basis. 

At the time of his McLaren departure, Ricciardo stated his intention to secure a full-time seat for 2024, but only if it met his expectations. 

After all, that was a large part of the reason he decided to step away this season, given the lack of competitive seats available.

The problem for Ricciardo is that there isn’t an obvious landing spot if he wants a front-running car. 

Barring a major fallout at Red Bull, he won’t be replacing Verstappen or Perez, while Ferrari are locked out. Ricciardo is also unlikely to be Mercedes’ first choice in the event Lewis Hamilton decided against renewing his contract. 

Aside from the teams that didn’t interest him at the end of 2022, it is hard to see what options Ricciardo may have. 

Ironically, a seat at McLaren may open up if Norris’ frustration leads him to seek pastures new. 

McLaren boss Zak Brown has left the door open for a Ricciardo return but having just gone through an embarrassing divorce, a reunion feels incredibly unrealistic. 

Will the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix end up being Ricciardo’s final competitive appearance in an F1 car? Unless he resets his ambitions, that prospect feels ever more likely.