While Formula One’s winning team has yet to make a formal announcement, Helmut Marko a consultant to Red Bull has revealed Daniel Ricciardo will be returning to Milton Keynes as a development driver for the 2023 season. It was rumoured back in Monza that the 8 times GP winning Australia could be joining Mercedes as their reserve driver, yet Ricciardo never gave fuel to that particular speculation.
The recent deterioration between the Red Bull drivers’ Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen has given rise to the notion that Ricciardo is set to replace the Mexican driver alongside Verstappen.
Ricciardo “returns home”
Daniel Ricciardo came through the Red Bull driver junior programme initially placed with HRT for the 2011 British GP. Ricciardo remained with the F1 minor for the remainder of the season learning his craft before being promoted in 2012 to the team then called Toro Rosso.
Following two years with the Faenza based outfit, Ricciardo was promoted to the Red Bull team to drive alongside Sebastian Vettel for 2014.
In his 5 years with Red Bull Ricciardo won 7 races and finished ahead of his team mate at the end of the season 3 times.
Hill says Daniel improved driver
Damon Hill believes Ricciardo’s last 4 years away from Red Bull may have made him a more complete driver.
“What is it about the prodigal son who returns? He could be in a good position coming back having learned a lot in other places.
“I do think that drivers who spend a long time with one team – their experience is actually limited. So it can be that you improve having been somewhere else and then returning to bring something back to the place you started.”
Over the 2022 season Red Bull Racing have suffered a quickly deteriorating relationship between their current drivers. The problems surfaced in round 6 in Barcelona when Perez was asked to allow Verstappen through to take the race win.
Next time out in Monaco, Perez had a faster lap time than Max after the first run in qualifying 3. The Mexican began his final run ahead of Verstappen and mysteriously spun at Portier blocking the circuit which prevented Verstappen from completing his final qualifying lap.
War between Red Bull drivers
Verstappen was seen to storm angrily into the back of the garage at the end of the session. Perez went on to win the race with Max finishing just P3.
With Max having won the 2022 drivers’ title in Japan, Sergio asked the team whether they would help him win the Mexican GP. The implication was Perez wanted if necessary Verstappen to surrender his position and allow his team mate through.
Verstappen was furious responding, “no chance.” The double world champion believes the Mexican should be allowed to beat him on merit.
The issue became moot as Perez fell behind Lewis Hamilton finishing P3 as Max went on to claim victory.
Verstappen’s power in Red Bull
Next time out in Brazil, again Perez had requested he be favoured to improve his chance of finishing P2 in the drivers’ title. Verstappen was asked by the team to let Sergio through on the last lap, but he refused.
Damon Hill believes this demonstrates the power Verstappen has within the team and speculates the return of Daniel Ricciardo may be at Max’s behest. The two drivers are known to have a great friendship and the implication is Ricciardo is set to replace the disgruntled Perez.
“If you think about the problems they’ve had between Max and Sergio. Let’s say the toys go out the pram and there’s some sort of fall out; Daniel Ricciardo could be in prime position.
“It is his home and he does owe a lot to Red Bull so I think he’ll be very keen to be back part of the fold.”
“If relationships deteriorate, sometimes it becomes unworkable and my suspicion is Max has quite a lot of power in that team.”
Perez needs to know his place
Sergio Perez has a contract for 2023 with Red Bull Racing with an option again for 2024. Yet as Ricciardo will attest to, no contract guarantees an F1 driver his racing seat if the team decide it’s time to move them on.
Verstappen has suggested he will “help out” Perez this weekend in Abu Dhabi, however the Mexican in free practice two looks like he’s driving a different car from the Dutchman. Sergio was only 5th fastest as his team mate topped the time sheets 0.7 seconds quicker than the Mexican driver.
The nightmare scenario sees Max and Sergio on the same piece of race track on Sunday and their cars coming together. Surely Perez would take the blame from the team and his future could look even more in jeopardy than it does at present.
"My number one Sebastian Vettel memory will always be Abu Dhabi 2010"
Karun gets the ball rolling with memories of Seb ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RY9kXGbY0u
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 18, 2022