Leading F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto says Daniel Ricciardo is the “top” candidate if Red Bull choose to replace Sergio Perez, with a predicted F1 2024 pace surge for AlphaTauri set to help his cause.
After moving to Renault and then on to a disastrous McLaren spell that made him question his will to carry on in F1, Ricciardo has now returned to the grid with Red Bull’s second team and is now eyeing a comeback to the senior squad.
The opportunity could well open up for 2025, as Perez, Max Verstappen’s current Red Bull team-mate, bids to use F1 2024 to prove that he deserves a contract extension.
Much-improved machinery to boost Daniel Ricciardo?
Should Red Bull decide Perez has not done enough, then Barretto believes Ricciardo is in prime position to be called upon, and ‘many insiders’ believe he will have an improved platform with which to prove his worth in F1 2024.
The soon-to-be-rebranded AlphaTauri team made major gains in the closing stages of F1 2023, with their strengthening of ties with parent team Red Bull for the upcoming year concerning multiple team bosses, as the fact Red Bull dominated the season with 21 wins from 22 grands prix bodes very well for AlphaTauri’s fortunes.
“As the reigning World Champions and current class-leaders in F1, Sergio Perez’s seat at Red Bull will be one of the most sought after,” Barretto wrote for the Formula 1 website.
“Team principal Christian Horner has said it’s the Mexican’s seat to lose. Do a good job – and improve significantly in qualifying where he struggled in 2023 – and the team have no reason to change. Fail to do so and Red Bull can dip into their driver pool which includes Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and Liam Lawson.
“As it stands, it is believed Ricciardo tops senior management’s list of suitable replacements.
“The Australian will need to get back to his very best this year, and with many insiders feeling his AlphaTauri team will make a big step forward this year in terms of competitiveness, there’s a strong chance he’ll deliver.
“That’ll give Red Bull a good kind of headache, as a 2018-spec Ricciardo might be too strong an option to turn down.”
Ricciardo is not the only piece of the Red Bull driver puzzle generating a great deal of intrigue, as his fate could directly impact that of reserve driver Liam Lawson, who Red Bull senior advisor and driver programme boss Helmut Marko wants on the grid for F1 2025, following an impressive five-race 2023 stint to cover the injured Ricciardo.
Ricciardo impressing and returning to Red Bull would make Lawson the ‘no-brainer’ choice to fill that spot Barretto writes, though if things go the other way, Ricciardo could be off the F1 grid at Lawson’s gain.
“Should AlphaTauri become more competitive this year, as they begin a new era led by former Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies, their seats will become even more sought after,” Barretto continued.
“Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has hinted Liam Lawson is likely to get a race seat for 2025, but for that to happen, Ricciardo or [Yuki] Tsunoda need to make way.
“That call will be made for them if Ricciardo steps up to Red Bull, as it’s likely that another good season for Tsunoda will be enough to keep him alongside the returning Lawson. But if Tsunoda or Ricciardo struggle, it would be a no-brainer for Red Bull to slot Lawson in for one of them.”
Verstappen’s future with Red Bull is at least very safe, the three-time World Champion under contract until the end of 2028.