Helmut Marko fuels Daniel Ricciardo mid-season swap threat as Liam Lawson contract clause revealed

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo with the image of Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko in a circle.

Daniel Ricciardo and Helmut Marko.

Red Bull senior advisor Helmut Marko is toying with the idea of swapping Daniel Ricciardo for Liam Lawson in-season, as he revealed a clause in Lawson’s contract which makes that prospect more appealing.

After a disrupted 2023 return to the grid for Ricciardo with Red Bull’s second team, the eight-time grand prix winner was confirmed for what was planned to be the full F1 2024 season alongside Yuki Tsunoda.

Liam Lawson exit clause adds appeal to Daniel Ricciardo swap

However, the threat of Ricciardo losing his seat before the campaign is over seems to be intensifying.

It is in fact Tsunoda who has gained the early upper hand in this F1 2024 intra-team battle, Ricciardo’s woes intensifying last time out at Suzuka after a poor race start was followed by contact with Williams’ Alex Albon, sending them both crashing out on the opening lap.

Ricciardo will receive a new chassis for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix as he looks to find a much-needed breakthrough, as even at this early stage of the season Marko is giving thought to putting Lawson in the RB, having impressed in the place of the injured Ricciardo last season.

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According to Marko, Lawson has a clause in his contract which would allow him to leave the Red Bull fold if they do not deliver him a 2025 seat, making the idea of giving him that seat before then all the more appealing to asses his talents further.

“With Liam Lawson as a reserve driver, we obviously have a strong driver in the team who is contractually entitled to drive for another team if he doesn’t get a cockpit with us in 2025,” Marko revealed to Austrian publication Kleine Zeitung.

“In this respect, it would of course be exciting for us if we could see him in Formula 1 this year to get an even clearer picture. But it’s a complex issue, so we’ll have to see how things progress.”

Ricciardo’s prospects have taken an alarming turn for the worse since F1 2024 began, the Aussie starting the season seen as the huge favourite to return to Red Bull in 2025 but now fighting to remain a part of the junior team’s line-up.

Marko explained that Ricciardo needs to have the beating of Tsunoda if he wants to be a Red Bull 2025 contender, which clearly at present is not the case, even if Ricciardo had proven a close match for Tsunoda in Japanese GP qualifying.

“The expectation was that he had to be clearly faster than Yuki if he wanted to have any hope of getting the seat at Red Bull,” said Marko. “That hasn’t been the case so far, even if it was close [in Japan].

“We’ll see how that develops.”

Tsunoda earned glowing praise from Marko after his drive to P10 at Suzuka, claiming a point in front of his home crowd.

Such performances have seen the 23-year-old mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull for 2025, though Marko feels it is too early to form any opinion on Tsunoda’s chances of doing so.

“Yuki has had a great start to the season and is no longer the hot runner he once was,” said Marko. “There have only been four races, so you can’t say much yet.

“But he has Daniel under control, even if it was close in Japan.”

Tsunoda has scored all seven of RB’s points so far this season.

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