Ricciardo has returned to Red Bull as a reserve after his McLaren career failed to go to plan, but not everyone believes it was the perfect move for the team to make.
The Aussie will be a Red Bull reserve for 2023, having lost his race seat with McLaren a year earlier than planned. He is, of course, already familiar with the facilities and many of the staff having driven for them for several years before leaving for Renault at the end of 2018.
Ricciardo will be ready to be called-up to race at selected races next year, should he be needed. He will also complete simulator work and contribute to the team’s marketing activities, as he mulls over his future and waits to see what driving opportunities present themselves.
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It has been suggested that Red Bull might even choose to promote him to a race seat again, should Sergio Perez struggle for form in 2023. Sky Sports commentator David Croft knows Ricciardo is a capable racer who could do well for Red Bull over the next few years, but is a little concerned for the team’s future.
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Both Perez and Ricciardo are in their 30s, while main man Max Verstappen has been hinting that he could retire at the end of his current contract – even though he will only be 31 when it expires. “I think that [Perez and Ricciardo] are two very different styles of driver,” said Croft.
“They’re both capable of winning races but, to me, they win races in very different ways. I hate to say this, I think Daniel is a terrific bloke, but he is not the future for Red Bull – not by any stretch of the imagination, mainly because of age.
“When Max spoke at the end of the season and talked about potentially stopping at the age of 31, that’s a big revelation to me. He’s already thinking about the time he stops racing. If he’s thinking that, then Red Bull should be thinking it too. Personally, I’d be trying to identify somebody else to come in in 2024 if Checo is not the answer.”
Red Bull say they are happy with Perez alongside Verstappen, but will not be afraid to replace the Mexican if they feel a change is needed – just ask Pierre Gasly. Ricciardo’s experience and race record makes him a good option to come in, but Karun Chandhok pointed out that it will be difficult for the team to gauge how prepared the Aussie is with him not in a race seat.
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“How do they evaluate Daniel? That’s what I’m interested to see,” the Sky pundit said. “They can put him in the sim, but it’s not the same as driving the real car. So will they give him a go in a test somewhere? That’s what I’d like to see… how do they genuinely evaluate the Daniel Ricciardo of today?”
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