AlphaTauri reveal Daniel Ricciardo comeback plan but it’s ‘not 100%’

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo pictured at the Singapore Grand Prix.

AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo pictured in the paddock.

AlphaTauri are determined not to rush Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback after the Aussie admitted he was “not 100%” during a simulator session earlier this week.

Returning to the grid earlier this season with Red Bull’s junior team, the Honey Badger’s comeback was curtailed when he broke his hand in second practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Such was the severity of the injury that Ricciardo required surgery, followed by a lengthy injury lay-off.

AlphaTauri believe Daniel Ricciardo will be fit for US GP

AlphaTauri put reserve driver Liam Lawson in the AT04 with the Kiwi impressing to the point that it raised questions as to whether Ricciardo would even be back in the car.

But Red Bull announcing him as one of their 2024 drivers took the pressure off the situation with the 34-year-old’s bosses all adamant they didn’t need to rush his comeback.

That meant that while Japan and then Qatar were touted as possible dates for his return, it will instead be only the next race, the United States Grand Prix.

But even that, Bayer concedes, isn’t a certainty.

“That’s definitely the plan,” he said of Austin. “He was in the simulator on Monday and he said that he could, you know, go almost until the end, but it was not 100 percent.

“And we didn’t want to rush things.

“And given that, again, on the other hand, we have this amazing luxury of having a top third driver who can jump into the seat, with Liam… together we decided to give him a bit more time and he should be in the car in Austin.”

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Bayer explains why Liam Lawson missed out on AlphaTauri seat

As for Lawson, despite a highly impressive audition for a 2024 race seat, the 21-year-old will instead be Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s official reserve driver with Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda taking the junior team’s seats.

Asked why they had overlooked Lawson for a 2024 seat, Bayer explained that the team wanted at least one experienced driver in the car and that meant Tsunoda and Lawson wouldn’t work as a partnership.

“We had lots of discussions about the future of the team and our shareholders said, you know, ‘we want you to continue and educate young drivers, but we also want you to be successful’,” he said.

“And I think, ultimately, you can’t have both. You can’t have two young, inverted commas, drivers in the team.

“And we were looking at what do we need to deliver that purpose and we finally came to the conclusion that, first of all, we only have two seats and Daniel is offering a lot of expertise, especially when it comes down to the set-up of the car, which is something that we were struggling with.

“Yuki, over the years has grown and is now coming to the pinnacle of his performance curve. And so we thought that those two make the right team. On top of that, I think it’s also good to have somebody like Liam just behind them to keep the fire warm under their seats and to make sure that we progress as a team.”

It has pundits questioning whether AlphaTauri, previously the team used to train the next generation of Red Bull drivers, now had a different objective.

That was put to Bayer, who said: “It is, but not absolutely. I think the reality today is if you’re looking at the grid, it’s so competitive, it’s so tight, that every 10th of a second is being fought for by our colleagues here, and we came to the conclusion that in order to be contenders for the top midfield, we need one experienced driver but we’ll continue to grow young talent that ultimately shall end up in Red Bull Racing.”

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