F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham detailed the conundrum which Red Bull face as three drivers vie for two seats with their AlphaTauri team in F1 2024.
Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo was set to see out the F1 2023 campaign at AlphaTauri, having replaced Nyck de Vries ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, though a hand injury sustained during an FP2 crash at Zandvoort opened the door for Red Bull junior Liam Lawson.
The New Zealander has impressed in his two outings so far, Lawson set to appear in Singapore and perhaps Japan too as Ricciardo continues his recovery.
“Three into two doesn’t go” for AlphaTauri
With Yuki Tsunoda expected to be retained for a fourth season with the team, it looks like a head-to-head battle between Ricciardo and Lawson for the second seat, creating a “headache”, albeit a positive one, for Red Bull looking ahead to next season.
Speaking about Ricciardo’s injury on the F1 Nation podcast, Pinkham said: “He’s paid a pretty heavy price for it, hasn’t he? Because just after his comeback, he now looks like not coming back until potentially Qatar.
“I mean, Singapore was always going to be too soon, such a physical circuit, such a demanding one, particularly with steering wheel changes, but we’re now hearing that he may not make it for Japan either.
“So that is four races, four races for Daniel in his comeback, four opportunities though for Liam Lawson, who has done very well and he’s taken it in his stride and he probably has taken Max Verstappen’s advice, not overthinking it, just go out there and do what comes naturally to you.
“It will be his first experience at the Marina Bay circuit, a circuit which ironically, Daniel has always done very well at, including last year after his McLaren contract had been terminated.
“So how much of a headache is this for Red Bull and AlphaTauri? It’s a good problem to have, but three into two doesn’t go.”
That was echoed by podcast host Tom Clarkson, who doubts Red Bull would be willing to take a trip down memory lane to 2005 when their second seat was rotated between Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
“Well, Red Bull have a history, when Christian Klien did some races for the team and then Vitantonio Liuzzi did some races for the team. They shared the car,” said Clarkson.
“But I can’t actually see them doing that again, three into two doesn’t go.
“It’s interesting that they’re changing the philosophy at AlphaTauri next year. They want the team to go back to being more of a young driver development team. So they’re reducing the development budget, they’re going to take as much from Red Bull Racing as they can, whereas in recent years, they’ve been developing everything themselves.
“There’s a bit of a move back to the UK for some of the technical team, so I think if they’re trying to make the team a place for young drivers to be nurtured and developed, then Daniel Ricciardo is not a young driver. It maybe isn’t looking so good for him.
“But equally, they might love the fact that Daniel is such a good benchmark, so then it becomes do you go Liam Lawson, or Yuki Tsunoda alongside him?
“And yeah, I mean, it’s a nice problem to have. And all three of those drivers will be using these last eight races to really show what they can do before the decision over next year’s driver line-up is made.”
Tsunoda continues to hold the distinction of being the only AlphaTauri driver to have scored a point in F1 2023, with his three making up the entirety of their total for the season so far.