Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise return to Formula One with AlphaTauri has been described as a “high-risk” move by Martin Brundle, but one that brings great excitement to the sport. Red Bull confirmed on Tuesday that Ricciardo will replace Nyck de Vries at the Faenza-based team with immediate effect, allowing fans to witness the Australian driver in action at the Hungaroring, just before the summer break.
Brundle expressed his surprise at Ricciardo’s decision to join the slowest team on the grid, considering his previous desire to secure a seat with a competitive Formula One outfit.
“I’m really happy to see him back, but my honest reaction was, ‘Wow, Daniel’s going to do that, isn’t he? I was surprised,” Brundle shared with Sky Sports News.
“High risk situation for Ricciardo”
The departure of Nyck de Vries from AlphaTauri was primarily due to his inability to outperform his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, in both qualifying and race performance.
Brundle believes Ricciardo should be given a grace period of one or two races to adapt to his new team and car. However, he emphasized that for Ricciardo to revive his Formula One career, he needs to beat Tsunoda, both in qualifying and in races.
Acknowledging the challenge ahead, Brundle stated, “It’s a high risk for Daniel in probably the slowest car on the grid. He has to beat Tsunoda, he absolutely has to. He has to beat him in qualifying and in the race, that’s an absolute expectation. Maybe he can outperform the car, if he can massively outperform the car and get it somewhere near the top 10 and keep it there in the race, then maybe that will be his saving grace.”
Sympathy for Nyck de Vries
While discussing de Vries, Brundle expressed sadness for the Dutchman, who joins the list of Red Bull drivers who have struggled in their careers. He noted that de Vries has faced challenges in a difficult car, especially against his more experienced teammate.
Brundle observed signs of desperation in de Vries’ driving in recent races, expressing his belief that the young driver is better than his recent performances indicate:
“He’s not even had half a season, in what is quite clearly a difficult car – his team-mate’s a lot more experienced,” added the former Grand Prix driver.
“Has it gone well for Nyck? No. Quite clearly to me, desperation has crept into his driving in recent races, quite a lot of desperation.
“He’s got into some skirmishes he shouldn’t have been in, and it’s just been really sad to watch because I think he’s better than that.
“I feel sorry for him that he hasn’t had more time and more support.”
Lewis 🤜🤛 Lando
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 13, 2023
The ‘secret deal’ for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Formula One with AlphaTauri has sparked speculation about a potential secret clause in his contract that could lead to a future drive with Red Bull. Martin Brundle, a pundit for Sky Sports F1, suggested that Ricciardo may have another deal on the table if he performs well with the Italian team.
Brundle’s remarks followed suggestions from various pundits that Ricciardo’s move to AlphaTauri could serve as a stepping stone towards rejoining Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen.
Brundle speculated that Ricciardo may have agreed to the AlphaTauri deal with the understanding that it could lead to future opportunities. He said:
“Daniel has always talked about losing his mojo and needing to get his enthusiasm back, so I didn’t think he would take this unless there was another deal attached to it, a ‘you do this and then we’ll do that down the line’.”
F1 is better off with Ricciardo back
Highlighting his belief that Formula One is better with Ricciardo on the grid, Brundle expressed his dissatisfaction with seeing the Australian driver “hang around all weekend.” Ricciardo’s return to racing will take place at the Hungarian Grand Prix, following the immediate departure of Nyck de Vries from AlphaTauri.
The decision to sign Ricciardo came shortly after he completed a successful Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone. His lap times were reportedly competitive across all three compounds, with his best time even fast enough for a front-row start at the British Grand Prix.
Perez at risk
While Red Bull has assured Sergio Perez of his seat’s security, Helmut Marko, a senior figure in the team, has urged the Mexican driver to improve his qualifying performance. Perez has struggled in qualifying, failing to advance beyond Q1 on three occasions and missing the final shootout for the past five races.
F1 TV presenter Will Buxton echoed the sentiment that it would come as no surprise to see Ricciardo back at Red Bull in the next season. The Australian driver’s future in the sport continues to be a topic of intrigue, and fans eagerly await further developments regarding his potential return to the top team.