With Helmut Marko all but confirming Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull’s new reserve driver, Jenson Button believes it’s a “shame” the Aussie has opted to go down that path.
Announcing his split from McLaren after two disappointing seasons, Ricciardo set his sights on a reserve driver role for next year’s championship.
The 33-year-old made it clear that he wanted a year on the sidelines, one in which he could rebuild his confidence and take the time for himself to “feel the way I need to feel about the sport again.”
But conceding that there’s “nothing like car fitness at this level”, he wants a reserve driver role that will also give him time in a car, not just in the simulator.
Linked to both Mercedes and Red Bull, it seems the decision has been made and he’ll be returning to Milton Keynes next season.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko let that slip to Sky Deutschland in the Yas Marina paddock, declaring: “Ricciardo will be our third driver”.
Button doesn’t believe it is the right decision for the Honey Badger as he cannot see it paving the way for the 2024 return that Ricciardo has stated he wants.
“If it’s true, which I’m sure it is, it’s what Daniel wants. So that’s the key,” Button said on Sky Sports’ The F1 Show.
“That’s the key to Daniel’s career is he’s chosen what he wants to do, so hopefully it’s the right decision for him. That’s all I have to say really.
“I mean, for me, I wish that we were seeing Daniel in F1 next year, even if he was in a car that wasn’t so competitive.
“I’d love to see Daniel racing because I think he needs that to show what he can do because we all know how great he is. It just hasn’t worked out for McLaren.
“Whereas if you’re a development driver in a sim and doing marketing days, you’re definitely not going to see how good he is.
“So it’s a shame for me that he’s chosen that route, but he thinks it’s the right route for him.”
‘You’re only as good as your last race’
The saying is ‘you’re only as good as your last race’, or is that an omen when it comes to Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of returning in 2024?
The Aussie has had a wretched time with McLaren while his two years with Renault weren’t much better either.
And that begs the question why would a team want a driver who is under-performing? More worryingly, why would they want a driver who can’t figure why it is so, and therefore doesn’t know how to change it?
Yes Ricciardo is an eight-time grand prix winner, a driver who was twice P3 in the overall standings. But he’s also a driver who has stumbled over the course of the past four seasons.
Formula 1 has seen drivers return, one announced as recently as Thursday with Haas putting Nico Hulkenberg in the car instead of Mick Schumacher. The Hulk, though, scored in two of his four substitute appearances for the Racing Point/Aston Martin outfit. That’s 50 per cent.
Ricciardo is well below that with just six top-ten results in the past 21 races.
It doesn’t bode well for him as he’ll not only be out the shop window next year but 2022 will be the most recent memories anyone has of him.