Who will drive for AlphaTauri in 2024 is the question on the lips for fans of a few candidates, Daniel Ricciardo being chief among those drivers. Unfortunately, there appears to be yet another setback for Australian F1 star Daniel Ricciardo.
Formula 1’s Daniel Ricciardo has been missing from his AlphaTauri racing team since his accident at Zandvoort. Now it seems his return has been further delayed.
Rehab taking its time
Daniel Ricciardo was supposed to be back in the AlphaTauri cockpit for the Qatar Grand Prix in around two weeks’ time. But it seems the rehabilitation process is taking longer than originally thought.
Jonathan Eddolls, head of track development at AlphaTauri, revealed on the sidelines of the Japanese Grand Prix that there is no timetable for his comeback: “He’s still in recovery. It’s still a while away, so we don’t want to be too specific…”
The rehab is going “well”, but AlphaTauri doesn’t want to rush anything.
“I think there is no rush for either us or him to bring him back too soon. The worst thing would be for him to come back before (his injury) has healed properly and cause problems,” confirms Jonathan Eddolls.
Ricciardo’s F1 return uncertain
Ricciardo was recalled mid-season to replace Nyck De Vries at AlphaTauri. De Vries, the reigning Formula E World Champion, had been tapped by Red Bull’s Helmut Marko to lead the Junior Bull team. However, internal management conflicts at Red Bull led to De Vries’ abrupt departure, catapulting Ricciardo back into an F1 car, albeit one that struggled to compete.
A costly split-second decision
Ricciardo’s chance to take over as AlphaTauri’s lead driver looked promising, but fate had other plans. In a fateful moment during practice at Zandvoort, he was faced with a huge decision. Approaching the stranded car of Oscar Piastri in the middle of a corner, Ricciardo had a split second to decide what to do. Unfortunately, he chose to hit a tecpro barrier on the right, a decision that would have significant consequences.
Had he chosen to T-bone Piastri’s car instead, the damage to himself would have been minimal compared to the impact on his career. Hitting Piastri may have done less damage to Ricciardo’s F1 future than the road ahead now suggests.
Unusually long recovery
The length of Ricciardo’s recovery, as suggested by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, raises eyebrows. For a non-athlete, the typical recovery time for a metacarpal fracture in the hand is around 3-4 weeks, with residual discomfort often persisting beyond this period. This is particularly true when resuming activities that have been put on hold. Tenderness in the affected area may persist for several months.
Formula 1 drivers often ignore ‘aches and pains’ as long as they don’t aggravate the injury. It was therefore expected that Ricciardo would be fit for the Singapore Grand Prix. However, Horner’s comments cast doubt on even a return to Japan, with Suzuka being described as “optimistic”.
Now we’re here in Japan, Liam Lawson continues to deputise for the AlphaTauri team whilst the eight-time Grand Prix victor is expected to begin simulator sessions at the start of the Qatar race preparation week.
It is therefore possible that the 34-year-old will not return to the car until the US Grand Prix at the end of October, and that’s if all goes well. We might well not see Ricciardo in a race seat at all in 2023.
Who will drive for AlphaTauri in 2024?
In the meantime, Liam Lawson will be looking to keep his head above water. Alongside Yuki Tsunoda, the young New Zealander is now in contention for a regular cockpit for next season.
“We are all looking forward to more races with him while we wait for Daniel to recover,” added AlphaTauri’s Jonathan Eddolls. What happens next is unclear.
With Tsunoda, Ricciardo and Lawson, AlphaTauri has three potential drivers for the 2024 season – but only two cockpits. At the moment, the trend seems to be towards Tsunoda and Ricciardo, Red Bull themselves pushing for Riccardo to get back in the cockpit next year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 22, 2023
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