Friday’s practice day at Suzuka saw Red Bull return to the head of the field with Max Verstappen, but there was plenty of off-track F1 news as well…
Max Verstappen was the quickest man in Friday practice, restoring the usual status quo after Red Bull’s awful weekend in Singapore last time out.
But, off-track, there were plenty of storylines emerging from the paddock – catch up on all the latest F1 news here!
Simulator session will determine Daniel Ricciardo’s return
Daniel Ricciardo’s possible return for the Qatar Grand Prix hasn’t yet been confirmed, and AlphaTauri’s Jonathan Eddolls says there’s no rush to get him back in the car just yet.
“We all saw him in Singapore,” Eddolls said. “He’s still going through that recovery phase. We’re still talking a while away so I wouldn’t put a timeframe of it.”
“It’s going well,” he added.
“From our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early. Watch this space.”
But Eddolls revealed it will be a crucial simulator session that will determine Ricciardo’s race fitness and give him the green light for a return.
“He’ll jump in the sim as it’s a good representation of the car the loads,” he said.
“The final decision will come from him as he’ll know better than us how’s the pain, how’s the recovery.
“We’re not putting pressure on him, we have a pool of three drivers.”
Is Sebastian Vettel feeling the itch to return to F1?
Fresh from his beehive building on Thursday, four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel was trackside for FP2 and admitted that he is finding it difficult being a spectator rather than taking the wheel of an F1 car.
“It hurts to see these cars go past,” Vettel said.
“I knew it would be hard to be here, but here it is extremely hard. It is.. I mean it was my favorite track. I said last year my comeback would be here. Well, now I‘m standing here.”
Mick Schumacher closing in on racing return?
Mick Schumacher, currently on F1’s sidelines as Mercedes’ reserve driver, hasn’t managed to find a way back onto the F1 grid (yet), but the German driver could be set for a racing return in 2024.
Speaking in the press conference on Friday, Alpine’s Bruno Famin revealed there’s been some contact between the French outfit and Schumacher with an eye to getting the former Haas driver a seat in their sportscar programme.
“It’s true that we’re talking with Mick about the possibility to race in our endurance programme with the A424,” Famin confirmed.
“It would be a good opportunity for both parties I think.
“For the time being we’re just talking,” said Famin, “and hopefully we will organise a test.”
Christian Horner backs Liam Lawson to be a Grand Prix driver
Having impressed mightily during his three races so far with AlphaTauri, Liam Lawson has become an unexpected part of F1’s silly season as the Kiwi has made it clear he wants a full-time racing seat for next year.
Aside from the AlphaTauri seat, Lawson has also been linked with a Williams drive in place of the struggling Logan Sargeant, but Christian Horner couldn’t be drawn on whether Red Bull might be interested in loaning him out for next season.
“He will be a Grand Prix driver. He already is a Grand Prix driver,” Horner said.
“At some stage, whether he has to wait a little for that or not, I think he’s demonstrating that he is a talent for the future.
“He’s in the Red Bull family. I mean, if there was a seat, I think there’s only one seat left available. We’ve done that in the past when, for example, Carlos Sainz went on loan to the previous Renault team.
“But no, I think if he’s not sitting in a Grand Prix car next year, then he’s gonna have plenty on his plate with other stuff to do.”
McLaren sign new name as F1 reserve in place of Alex Palou
With IndyCar star Alex Palou turning his back on McLaren at the 11th hour, Zak Brown’s outfit have had to find a replacement reserve driver for the F1 side of things.
On Friday, McLaren confirmed the signing of 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Ryo Hirakawa, and Brown couldn’t resist the opportunity to get in a little dig at Palou at the same time.
“We have a few reserve drivers with the schedule being as big as it is,” Brown said.
“We’ve had a few reserve drivers, obviously we thought we had a reserve driver who’s decided not to show up here for the second half of the year.
“Ryo’s a big talent, we want to give him an opportunity to test our older car but, if we need a reserve driver, we’ll make a determination. We have a few others under contract.
“I think, in today’s day and age of Formula 1, you need to have a small group of drivers and then react if the situation presents itself where you need to put someone in the car.
“He knows how to drive a racecar!”