Signed as Red Bull’s reserve driver for the 2023 season, Daniel Ricciardo has told the In the Fast Lane pundits to “leave Yuki Tsunoda alone” come Melbourne next year as he “truly” wants some time off.
Last week Red Bull confirmed Ricciardo would be returning to the team he raced for from 2014 to 2018 and won seven grands prix with, the Aussie signing as their reserve driver.
But unlike most reserve drivers who attend all the races unless they have other racing commitments, Ricciardo’s deal with the Milton Keynes squad has been tailor made to suit a driver who right now could do with a break.
After two disappointing seasons with McLaren, Ricciardo chose to take a reserve role over a race seat as he wants a year out in which to gather his thoughts and maybe rekindle his love for Formula 1.
There are still questions about the deal such as will he be the reserve for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri, and if that is the case, the podcast pundits want to know if they should take Tsunoda out for a “dodgy bowl” of food on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo said please don’t.
“I truly do want some time off so let’s leave Yuki alone and let him race,” he told the Australian Grand Prix’s In the Fast Lane podcast.
Speaking about the details of his reserve deal with Red Bull, he added: “I have a pretty good idea of what it is going to be, and also after I’d figured out I don’t want to race next year and it became more and more clear what I wanted, I had to present my ideas to the team.
“I said if you are going to drag me to 24 races that’s not going to work, then I may as well race again. It was never a conversation of going to every race and standing in the back of the garage.
“It was very clear I’m not a reserve driver from 12 years ago so I’ll do a handful of races maybe around six-eight, hopefully not more than eight, that’s where I’ve tried to set a boundary.
“And then sim work and the marketing side as well. Formula 1’s platform is huge and that’s obviously where I could keep my name out there and Red Bull could use a good looking cat like myself.”
Red Bull made ‘more and more sense’ than Mercedes
When it became clear that Ricciardo wasn’t going to race next season and instead wanted a reserve seat, rumours suggested the Aussie was in line for the Mercedes job.
He says he did speak with Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff and those talks stalled with a return to Red Bull beginning to make “more and more sense”.
In the end he went with the familiarity of Red Bull.
“There were talks with Mercedes as well and I was also, let’s say, appreciative of their engagement as well, because there was certainly an appetite for that,” he said.
“It kind of stalled a little bit, and then the Red Bull stuff started to make more and more sense and had more and more legs, and then it naturally progressed as it did.
“There was a part of me as well where of course, even when I was at Red Bull, Mercedes was always the team. Of course they were always dominating, it was a team I was looking at and whatever.
“I had some conversations with them back in the day, and to have a few more now it was nice. Again, it was nice just still to be valued by some top teams after the couple of years I’ve had.
“When the Red Bull thing became more serious, it made more and more sense.
“I also thought, I’ve obviously jumped around a bit in the last two years, and maybe a bit of familiarity would be good for me, to just go back and work with people I’ve worked with before and obviously a car, I appreciate the cars have changed now, but a car that I gelled very well with.
“Just kind of jumping back and thinking about going to the sim work and doing all that, it just felt like, ‘alright, this is probably the environment that will just settle me in best and make me figure out what’s the next step beyond this and what I really want after 2023’.”
He is, however, thankful to both Wolff and George Russell for giving his merchandise a plug, a photograph of Wolff wearing it sending twitter into a frenzy over Ricciardo to Mercedes being a done deal.
“I do owe Toto a shout out and George for that matter for being good ambassadors,” said the Honey Badger.