Daniel Ricciardo has ten races left this season to save his Formula One career. He has a contract to drive for AlphTauri until the 2023 finale in Abu Dhabi which Christian Horner has claimed the likeable Australian will use as a pitch to replace Sergio Perez.
“At the moment there’s only something in place until the end of the season,” Horner told the F1 Nation podcast. “So there’s no thoughts or expectations beyond that.
On “loan” to AlphTauri
“We’ve loaned him to AlphaTauri to the end of the year. Obviously our drivers are going to be Max and Checo [Perez] again next year. But it’s always good to have talent in reserve.
“I think Daniel is viewing AlphaTauri… he firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull seat. That’s his golden objective. And by going to AlphaTauri, I think he sees that as his best route of stating his case for 2025.”
Despite Horner’s assertion Red Bull will continue with Perez in 2024, there are serious questions about how he would contribute to a tighter fight with other teams of the constructors’ title.
Ricciardo left Red Bull Racing after five successful seasons with the team from 2014-18. On his promotion from Toro Rosso, Ricciardo immediately eclipsed the efforts of his team mate who had the previous year completed the fourth of his consecutive F1 titles.
Sainz said McLaren car difficult to drive
During Daniel’s years with Red Bull, Mercedes were dominating F1 yet he claimed 7 Grand Prix victories and matched up well for three seasons against the up and coming Max Verstappen, his team mate.
A huge blue on blue crash in Baku 2018 is believed to have forced Ricciardo to consider his future, as he appeared to believe he had lost the backing of the Red Bull team.
Ricciardo then was successful against his Renault team mates for two seasons before getting the call from McLaren to replace the Ferrari bound Carlos Sainz.
Yet as Sainz indicated after Ricciardo had signed, the McLaren F1 car was a handful to drive well, something Daniel never got on top of except when in remarkable fashion he claimed victory at the Italian Grand Prix in 2021.
Ricciardo “bad habits”
Having been soundly beaten by his team mate Lando Norris for two seasons, Zak Brown – CEO of McLaren Racing – decided to terminate the Aussies contract one year early and Ricciardo then found himself back home at Red Bull becoming their reserve driver for this year.
However his time battling with the problematic McLaren had taken its toll and Christian Horner revealed early that Ricciardo had picked up a number of bad habits in his driving style.
“He came in and drove the simulator a couple of days after Abu Dhabi, and it was a complete disaster. He’d picked up every bad habit imaginable”, Horner revealed.
The Red Bull boss was coy at the time when asked about the exact nature of Daniel’s ‘bad habits’ but now has revealed to Speedcafe the fixes Red Bull engineers had to make.
Aussie drives RB19
During his initial runs in the Red Bull simulator it became quickly apparent to those who had worked with Ricciardo for 5 years, this was not the same driver who had left the team.
“It took some of his old engineering team to unpick some of those [bad habits] and very quickly, in a virtual world, got back to where we expected – and on par – with what we were used to.
“Then, we just wanted to verify that in the real world and the tyre test provided that opportunity.”
Ricciardo drove the current RB19 in a two day test following the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Ricciardo “sparkled” at Silverstone test
Christian Horner explained his amazement at the transformation he saw at the start of the Pirelli test.
“It was actually like when we tested him 10 years ago – we were looking at who was going to be the right person to replace Mark Webber,” said Horner.
“Kimi Raikkonen was one of the favourites at that point. We decided to give Carlos Sainz a brief run to run in the brakes and let Daniel drive in the afternoon, Carlos went within a couple of tenths of Sebastian, and then Daniel went quite a bit quicker when he drove the car.
“What impressed me the most [in 2023 test], I went up to have a look, was, bearing in mind this guy hadn’t been in a car for several months, within his third or fourth lap, he was down to a time that was within a second of what our drivers were achieving [two days earlier at the Grand Prix].
“Then his first proper run, as it were, on tyres that were comparable, you could see his confidence was growing, and that first lap on probably what was his seventh lap of the day would have put him on the front row of the grid.”
Horner blame McLaren
As the urban legend now is told, by lap 11 Christian Horner was on the blower to Dr. Helmut Marko eulogising over Ricciardo’s performance. The Austrian advisor to the Red Bull team then took it upon himself to sack Nyck de Vries and the door was open for Ricciardo to take his seat at AlphaTauri.
Now Christian Horner reveals the exact ‘bad habits’ Ricciairdo had picked up and appears to lay the blame at McLaren’s door.
“I think the problem is that when you’re driving cars that are difficult, it’s sometimes a compromise to get the most out of them,” explained Horner.
“I mean, his whole braking technique had changed dramatically from the technique that we were accustomed to.
“He was trying to put a sticking plaster on a weakness of the car to get it to rotate. I think once we don’t pick that then you saw everything starts to become more natural.”
“hadn’t eaten in months”
There were question marks over whether Ricciardo would be fit enough at short notice to race the difficult junior Red Bull team’s car. The strain on the neck in particular is enormous and requires weeks of training for rookies to build up the muscles prior to beginning a season in F1.
Christian Horner confirmed Daniel was in “great shape” when given the RB19 at Silverstone and completed the distance of almost two Grand Prix.
“If anything, when he came back, he looked like he hadn’t eaten for three months,” joked Horner.
“He did well over 100 laps, I think at Silverstone, which is a demanding physical circuit and then to jump in at Hungary, one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar and put in a stint like he did on the medium tyre, was hugely impressive.”
Tsunoda under the microscope
Regardless of whether Ricciardo gets Perez seat next season, the next 10 races will be a tough test for Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda. Now in his third year in Formula One he needs to be showing the promise that will one day take him up to the senior team.
When questioned this week over Tsunoda’s future with AlphaTauri, Dr. Marko made it plain, “Of course that depends on the further results,” he said to Kleine Zeitung.
Yet should Ricciardo eclipse his new team mate, it will be he who returns to drive alongside Verstappen and then the future for Tsunoda becomes uncertain.
Sponsored originally by Honda to be offered the junior Red Bull team drive, should he be dropped by the team, Honda may yet be able to throw him a lifeline.
Honda hope Yuki an Aston Martin candidate
The Japanese car manufacturer is set to partner with Aston Martin when the new power unit regulations come in 2026.
The president of Honda’s racing division, Koji Watanabe, has indicated they would like to take Yuki over to Aston Martin.
“He is originally from our school and in Formula 1 he is doing very well. We’re very happy to see him succeeding,” he said of the AlphaTauri racer. “But talking about the future, we still have three years to go.
“It’s too early for us to say what will happen. I don’t think it’s the time to talk about this. But we’re hoping that he will become a candidate. But it’s up to the team to make the final decision.”
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) August 12, 2023