Confirmed: Red Bull junior to take Daniel Ricciardo’s seat in FP1 at Japanese GP

Thomas Maher
Daniel Ricciardo, RB, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

RB's Daniel Ricciardo.

Daniel Ricciardo will be watching first practice from the sidelines at the Japanese Grand Prix, as another driver takes over his RB car.

Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko has confirmed Daniel Ricciardo will not be driving in the first practice session at Suzuka, with the RB team fielding an all-Japanese line-up for the hour-long session.

Daniel Ricciardo to miss FP1 at Suzuka

Ricciardo will hand over his VCARB01 to Ayumu Iwasa for the first practice session at Suzuka, who will drive alongside compatriot Yuki Tsunoda.

The reason for this is the fulfillment of one of the two mandatory practice sessions that must be given to a junior driver, defined as a driver of two Grand Prix starts or fewer.

While usually teams opt to perform this rules requirement later in the season, Red Bull’s strong Honda connections have often resulted in a Japanese rookie being given a chance to shine in front of their home audience.

With Suzuka scheduled for early in the season, Red Bull has turned to Ayumu Iwasa, who tested for the former AlphaTauri squad in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2023. Iwasa races for Team Mugen in Japan’s Super Formula category.

In 2019, Red Bull also ran Naoki Yamamoto in their then-Toro Rosso seat for the same session in Japan.

Writing in his column for Speedweek, Marko revealed the change of plans for first practice at Suzuka.

“On Friday, we will use our young pilot Ayumu Iwasa in practice, an All-Nippon team,” he said.

“What’s more, the Suzuka circuit should suit the Racing Bulls (sic) car.” recommends

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The timing of Ricciardo being sidelined for Iwasa is unfortunate for the Australian driver, coming just as the pressure on him has increased as rumours about his future have emerged.

With Ricciardo off to a tough start to his 2024 season, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has urged him to find more performance as Tsunoda has had the upper hand to start the year.

According to a report in New Zealand, the opportunity for Liam Lawson to step into Ricciardo’s seat could come quite soon – perhaps even as soon as the Miami Grand Prix.

The Herald has suggested that Ricciardo has been given an ultimatum by Marko that, if improvements aren’t made soon, Lawson could be given his car for the rest of the season.

But understands that the suggestions Ricciardo is in danger of losing his seat any time soon are premature – while the Australian driver is being given the hurry-up, there are no intentions to replace him in the seat.

Lawson’s own management team also has come forward to say Lawson has not been advised by Red Bull of any such moves, and the Kiwi driver has had no contact with media or made any comment regarding a possible move into Ricciardo’s seat.

However, as the reserve driver, Lawson remains hopeful that an opportunity for a full-time seat does become available.

While the rumour of a switch in time for Miami has been shot down, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that such a sensation switch could happen as the year progresses – Lawson only narrowly missed out on a seat with the RB squad and is known to have the admiration of Marko.

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