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Daniel Ricciardo commercial value boosts position within VCARB

Daniel Ricciardo has had a difficult start to 2024, but the Australian’s position in the team is understood to be safe. Despite the 34-year-old not fitting the mould of RB’s typical driver profile, the Faenza-based team is very enthusiastic about keeping his services. Among other things, Ricciardo’s financial and commercial value plays a critical role.

At the halfway point of last year’s campaign, the 8-time race winner returned to Formula 1. After a difficult spell at McLaren, his move to Red Bull’s second team was largely celebrated throughout the paddock. His initial performances were also – on the whole – encouraging.

Ricciardo was seen as a realistic candidate to join Red Bull and partner Max Verstappen. There is little doubt that Christian Horner considered such a pathway when signing him after last year’s Silverstone test. An injury at Zandvoort, however, derailed his progress in the AT04.

This season, however, there is no such extraneous variable to excuse Ricciardo’s form. Despite this smooth pre-season, Yuki Tsunoda has consistently outperformed the Australian driver in 2024 so far. Both in qualifying and race trim, the #22 car has been the reference for the RB.

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RB unshaken in their commitment to Daniel Ricciardo

However, the Italian outfit has been swift to defend the Australian for his performances. Team principal Laurent Mekies and CEO Peter Bayer are among his most vocal defenders – even amidst a disappointing sequence of results. These senior personnel continue to emphasise that Ricciardo’s experience and set-up input are invaluable to the team.

It must be said, however, that these platitudes seem quite disconnected from the action on track. For example, the team’s insistence that Ricciardo’s set-up insights are so valuable seems to contradict his own confusion about his lack of pace. At the Australian GP, Ricciardo was convinced that something unknown was contributing to the deficit against Yuki Tsunoda.

According to an ESPN report, there is another reason behind VCARB’s staunch faith in the #3 driver. When negotiating with Visa and Cash App for the team’s title sponsorship last year, Daniel Ricciardo was reportedly influential. His presence played a key role in the Faenza team agreeing to what is estimated as being a $35 million per year deal.

Of course, the impact of this commercial dimension should not be overstated. Red Bull is still capable of putting their foot down on RB’s driver combination. Liam Lawson is also, undoubtedly, an important factor in the Austrian team’s calculations. Still, this financial angle is certainly a positive for a driver who is not delivering spectacular results on track.

Over the next few rounds, Daniel Ricciardo’s performances will continue to be scrutinised. Depending on his performances against Tsunoda, a clearer image will emerge about the lengths to which RB are willing to tolerate a discrepancy in speed within the garage.

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