Daniel Ricciardo is reported to have agreed a deal to return to Red Bull next year as their third driver.
The Australian has been seeking a way to remain in Formula 1 since his contract at McLaren was terminated a year early, with his farewell to the Woking team taking place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Overlooked for the other race seats that would have interested him, such as at Alpine, it quickly became apparent a reserve driver role was the most likely scenario for Ricciardo.
Linked with Mercedes and Red Bull, it has now been reported by Sky Germany that Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko told them Ricciardo will be rejoining the team for whom he won seven grands prix as a third driver.
But it does not mean the 33-year-old will be the official reserve driver for Red Bull and AlphaTauri as back-up to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, with Auto Motor und Sport’s Tobi Gruner saying on Twitter that will be Liam Lawson who took part in Abu Dhabi FP1 for Red Bull.
Gruner also tweeted that “Helmut Marko has confirmed to [Sky Germany] that Ricciardo will be third driver next year at Red Bull. Contract with Sergio Perez runs until 2024.”
A further quote, reported by Motorsport.com, from Marko read: “We have so many sponsors, we have to do show runs and the like, so of course he’s one of the most high-profile and best suited.”
However, should a substitute be required for Verstappen or Perez, it should be borne in mind that Lawson, the 20-year-old New Zealander, will be competing in the 2023 Super Formula season in Japan which runs on seven weekends between April and October.
Three of those clash with F1, which could therefore lead to Ricciardo stepping in at Red Bull if required.
Marko was also asked about this week’s rumours that Mattia Binotto is on the brink of being replaced as Ferrari team principal.
A report in Gazzetta dello Sport claimed Binotto is set to pay the price for the Scuderia’s disappointing season after a terrific start, and that Alfa Romeo’s Fred Vasseur will be brought in as his successor.
Marko suggested one surprise name as a future incumbent of that high-pressure role – Sebastian Vettel, who is retiring as a driver after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In response to a question from Sky Germany about what Vettel, a four-time World Champion for Red Bull, might do when he leaves F1, Marko is reported to have mentioned the Ferrari team principal job – but also suggested now would be too soon.