Starting his first race back with AlphaTauri 13th on the grid, it was a case of so far so good for Daniel Ricciardo with Helmut Marko saying if he wants to return to Red Bull, he “has to perform”.
But, and it’s a big one, the Austrian reiterated that right now there is someone else in that second Red Bull for next season, and that’s Sergio Perez.
Eight months after his last Formula 1 grand prix with McLaren, Ricciardo returned to the grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix having been loaned to AlphaTauri by the Red Bull team, the Aussie replacing the ousted Nyck de Vries.
Daniel Ricciardo qualifies P13 on his F1 return
It was an inspired decision with Ricciardo bagging the team’s first Q2 appearance since the Spanish Grand Prix while also out-qualifying Yuki Tsunoda on his second debut with the Red Bull junior team.
Outpacing Tsunoda by 0.013s in Q1, Ricciardo went on to qualify in 13th place as he beat the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll and the Alpine of Pierre Gasly in the medium tyre segment.
Marko was all but crowing.
“At AlphaTauri you can smile again,” the Red Bull motorsport advisor declared to Sky Deutschland. “Daniel’s performance was surprisingly strong, there has been a real upswing in the team.”
It was already noticeable in Friday’s practice where, although just P14 to Tsunoda’s P4, Ricciardo’s experience was \being felt.
Marko added to F1-Insider: “On Friday the engineers were almost euphoric about the great feedback they received from Ricciardo.”
Ricciardo has made no secret about wanting to use his AlphaTauri opportunity as an audition to take Perez’s Red Bull seat with 2025 being touted as the date.
Marko simply said: “If Ricciardo wants to come back to us, he has to perform.”
But right now Perez is in the car for 2024, “the contract with Perez runs until 2024” the 80-year-old confirmed, but Perez also has to prove his worth.
“Perez has to improve,” Marko said after the driver finally made it into Q3, the first time in six races, but only got as far as P9.
“We told him to just concentrate and not always look at Max. He just needs to be a little more relaxed.”
Max Verstappen will line up P2 on the Hungaroring grid after Lewis Hamilton beat him to pole position by 0.003s while Perez is P9, Ricciardo 13th and Tsunoda P17.