Jenson Button has questioned whether Red Bull would be willing to put Daniel Ricciardo into the car instead of Sergio Perez after the Aussie outlined his “fairytale ending” to his Formula 1 career.
Five years after leaving Red Bull for pastures that turned out to be not-very-green nor successful, Ricciardo returned to Red Bull this season as the team’s official reserve driver.
He opted for that over a backmarker race-seat as the Honey Badger wanted a year off to regain his mojo, with his confidence sorely dented during his two seasons with McLaren.
Now he’s plotting a comeback in 2024 and has told ESPN that Red Bull is his preferred choice as it would be a “fairytale ending to finish my career here if I could have it all my own way, but we’ll see.”
His comments came in the wake of yet another troubled grand prix weekend for the under-fire Perez with the Mexican driver failing to make it into Q3 for the third race in succession leading to yet another race without a podium finish.
Button, though, can’t see Red Bull choosing Ricciardo over Perez.
“I don’t think he is (in danger) for this year but at the end of the year who knows,” the 2009 World Champion said of Perez’s future during a media call to promote his upcoming NASCAR race in Chicago. “Who do you put in there?
“Obviously they have Daniel Ricciardo there as an ambassador but I don’t know if they are willing to put him in that seat.”
It begs the question who could they put in the car with Button asking whether they’d “take someone from AlphaTauri” and if so “who would it be – De Vries or would you put (Yuki) Tsunoda in the A Team.”
‘No catching Max Verstappen now he’s gone’
The 43-year-old Briton says he sympathises with Perez as while he hasn’t been on the podium since Miami, Max Verstappen has gone on a march winning race after race.
Having beaten Perez in Miami, despite starting P9 to his team-mate’s pole position, Verstappen has strung together four wins to race out to a 69-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I’ve got to feel for Checo, three races on the bounce he’s been below par,” said Button. “There’s no catching Max now he’s gone and the championship is definitely his.”
The Dutchman’s Canadian Grand Prix saw him equal Ayrton Senna on 41 F1 victories while also handing Red Bull their 100th.
Red Bull have already ruled out racing Daniel Ricciardo, twice
Earlier this year Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko already hinted that Ricciardo wouldn’t be in line for a Red Bull race seat with the Austrian telling Motorsport-Total.com that the Honey Badger was “not at the level” of Verstappen nor Perez during his sim runs with the team.
However, how far off he was from their lap times in the Red Bull simulator, Marko wouldn’t say.
“These are internal details,” he insisted. “Something must have happened to him that slowed him down in his competitiveness.”
He again ruled out putting Ricciardo in a race-seat when the Aussie was linked to Nyck de Vries’ AlphaTauri race seat, Marko saying that “if the worst came to the worst, we would fall back on our pool of young talent.
“We are talking specifically about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa. Ricciardo is not an issue.”