In a move that has sent shockwaves through the grid, it was announced overnight that Ricciardo will replace Nyck de Vries on Red Bull’s second team, AlphaTauri.
Ricciardo, who famously stepped away from racing this year to serve as a replacement driver for Red Bull, will now be suiting up for the development-minded AlphaTauri for the rest of season, beginning with the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 23.
The Perth star, who leapt to global superstardom with a pivotal role in Drive to Survive, was given the news after completing a blistering tyre test for Red Bull at Silverstone this week.
ESPN reports that Ricciardo’s impressive drive was decisive in helping him land a new gig. “It is great to see Daniel hasn’t lost any form while away from racing and that the strides he has been making in his sim sessions translate on track,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner said. “His times during the tyre test were extremely competitive. It was a very impressive drive, and we are excited to see what the rest of the season brings for Daniel on loan at Scuderia AlphaTauri.”
Speculation is already mounting that the move could lead to a return to Red Bull for Ricciardo. A strong showing by the Western Australian with AlphaTauri would put immense pressure on Red Bull’s incumbent second driver, Sergio Perez, who despite driving the fastest car on the grid, is some 99 points behind teammate Max Verstappen, who is in another league right now.
If Ricciardo were to oust Perez, it wouldn’t be the first time a stint in the second team has borne fruit for him. The 34-year-old raced for the team back in 2012/13, when it was called Toro Rosso, which led to his promotion to Red Bull for the 2014 season.
So, what does this latest move mean for Ricciardo and the rest of the F1 season? Let’s look at how things might play out.
Why is Ricciardo racing for Alphatauri?
F1 is a cutthroat sport — as Ricciardo knows all too well after the final year of his deal with McLaren was paid off last year. This was prior to his decision to join Red Bull as a replacement driver. DeVries has had a dismal 2023 and his exit was seen as a matter of when, not if.
Why did Ricciardo make the move?
Speculation is rife that Ricciardo is eyeing Perez’s spot on the Red Bull team. The eight-time race winner told ESPN last month that the “fairytale” end to his F1 career would be a return to Red Bull, the team he left in 2018. F1.com reports that Ricciardo wanted to delay his move to AlphaTauri until the end of this year, which would have given him a full pre-season before the start of the 2024 season. But he wasn’t going to turn down an offer and let someone else — word is Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson would have got the call — in the door. So, now he’s back in the hot seat.
Is Ricciardo’s move risky?
Damn right it is. AlphaTauri is a development team for up-and-coming talents, as Ricciardo once was. De Vries himself was the golden boy last season — he earned a contract after a stunning F1 debut for Williams at the Italian Grand Prix, in which he scored points. Now he’s been shafted.
The pressure is on Ricciardo to show he’s still got it what it takes to occupy a seat on a frontline team. He can start by outshining his new teammate Yuki Tsunoda for the remainder of this season.
“If Ricciardo really still has what it takes, he has to show it immediately,” F1 journalist Chris Medland writes for racer.com. “If Ricciardo performs, then he becomes a future candidate for a remarkable return alongside Max Verstappen at some stage.”
But if he doesn’t light up the grid and Perez comes back strongly in the second half of the season then Ricciardo could be left languishing on a non-contending outfit, not what he wants at this stage of his career. Drive to survive, literally.
Will Ricciardo’s move impact the standing?
Not in the slightest. This is more of a Machiavellian off-track move among minor players — hence why Netflix producers will love it. Verstappen won’t lose a hundredth of a second of what must surely be a very sound sleep. So, yes, don’t expect any ‘shoeys’ any time soon.
So, is Ricciardo’s move a good one?
Ricciardo is backing himself to perform. That’s baller. He was obviously getting itchy feet sitting on the sidelines — and hanging out with the Inspired Unemployed and celebs at the Met Gala and wasn’t cutting it. One thing is for sure: the next season of Drive to Survive suddenly has plenty of material to work with.