Heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix, all eyes will be on Ricciardo to measure how he stacks up against Tsunoda in his bid for a Redbull seat.
Ricciardo’s return would’ve come as no surprise to anyone who caught wind of Helmut Marko’s brutally honest comments surrounding former Alpha Tauri driver, Nyck De Vries, but what exactly does this mean for the Australian’s future in Formula 1?
Can Ricciardo secure his future at Red Bull?
Following Ricciardo’s departure from McLaren at the end of 2022, he was quick to shut down any rumors linking him to a backmarker team, stating that he would only return to F1 with a top team.
So, if a top team was the only option, why have Alpha Tauri now become Ricciardo’s final lifeline?
Redbull’s sister team has historically aided the main team with the development of up-and-coming drivers, such as Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Given their close connection to the reigning world champions, they undoubtedly present the best opportunity to get back to the top of Formula 1.
The recent tire test at Silverstone saw Verstappen’s former teammate put in lap times that would’ve been good enough for the front row at this year’s Grand Prix, albeit on a different day in different conditions, it was seemingly enough to land his spot at Alpha Tauri.
Whilst speaking to the F1 Nation Podcast about Red Bulls latest addition to the team, Horner noted:
“Daniel is firmly pitching for that 2025 Red Bull seat.
“That’s his golden objective, and by going to Alpha Tauri he sees that as his best route of stating his case.”
The admission that Red Bull is potentially open to a replacement of their second driver in 2025 has surely hiked up the pressure on Perez who has suffered a string of poor performances over the past five races. The Mexican driver has failed to reach Q3 five times in a row, leading some to question if he will even make it to the end of this contract in 2024.
What role does Yuki Tsunoda play in Ricciardo’s return?
Yuki Tsunoda, who is now in his third year with the Italian team, will be used as the benchmark to determine whether Ricciardo is good enough to make the step up from the junior team over the next couple of years.
Heading into 2023 many expected that De Vries would quickly equal the pace of Tsunoda as, whilst he was new to Formula 1, he entered the sport as an extremely experienced driver with a Formula 2 championship and Formula E championship to his name. As the season played out it became more and more apparent that De Vries was not up to standard resulting in his immediate dismissal.
If Tsunoda can outperform Daniel for the remainder of the year, that could very well close the curtain on any hopes of a Redbull reunion.
Ricciardo must hit the ground running in Hungary as any subpar performances could spell the end of his Formula 1 career altogether.