The popular Australian was spotted leaving the Mercedes hospitality in the paddock at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix.

It is now reported that he is at an advanced stage of discussions to join Mercedes as their back-up to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, according to French TV station Canal+.

Daniel Ricciardo - WHERE NEXT? | F1 2022

Ricciardo will leave McLaren at the end of this season, after the team opted to pay off the final year of his contract and replace him with Oscar Piastri, leaving him with limited options for next year.

His hopes of remaining in the F1 2023 driver line-up rest with Alpine (who are set to instead sign Pierre Gasly), Haas (who may retain Mick Schumacher) or Williams.

Only four drivers are paid more than Ricciardo in the 2022 list of F1 driver salaries, making him potentially an expensive proposition.

He has made it clear that his next move must have longevity and it now seems that stepping away from the grid, but joining a powerhouse team in Mercedes, is his decision.

Why would Ricciardo join Mercedes?

This move may be with a view to eventually replacing Hamilton, who is now 37. Ricciardo is four years younger and may view himself as a future No 2 driver alongside Russell.

That theory is complicated by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s claim that Hamilton will remain in F1 for another five years.

Why did Hamilton tell Ricciardo not to join Mercedes?

Hamilton had previously told Ricciardo not to accept a Mercedes reserve role because he is “far too talented”.

He added: “He should be racing.

“He has earned the right to be among us racing.

“If he’s a part of our team? Then great. But that role isn’t what’s best for him.

“If I was managing him, he’d be racing.”

What hints has Ricciardo given?

“Yes, I’m still keen to be part of F1,” he said last week about his future. “Of course, Plan A would be on the grid, so nothing’s changed.

“But as I said I don’t want to just jump at the first seat available. I know the landscape has probably changed as well at the end of next year with contracts or whatever, so I’m remaining open.

“My team is talking to pretty much everyone and they are having conversations. So we are just trying to put it all together and figure out what makes the most sense. 

“So it’s not that they’re not interested, and while I’m not coming from a place of overconfidence, we are just doing our due diligence and figuring out what’s best. 

“Trying to see beyond next year, because for me I want to be racing but also don’t want to be just looking at the next 12 months and not the next 24.”