Daniel Ricciardo told goal he ‘absolutely’ must hit in ‘high-risk’ return

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull garage. Melbourne, April 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull garage. Melbourne, April 2023.

Ex-F1 racer turned pundit Martin Brundle says Daniel Ricciardo “absolutely” must beat AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda if he is to have a chance of making this F1 comeback a success.

Ricciardo’s Silverstone tyre test in the Red Bull RB19 quickly brought about a huge opportunity, and he took that chance to replace the struggling Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri for the remainder of the F1 2023 campaign.

Now though, the challenge ahead is a mighty one, as he goes from driving the fastest car on the grid to trying to squeeze some points out of arguably the slowest in the AlphaTauri AT04.

Martin Brundle spells out Daniel Ricciardo expectations after surprise return

After Ricciardo’s nightmare McLaren spell was cut short at the end of the 2022 campaign, the Aussie made it clear that if he were to return to the grid, then the chance to fight for victories would be a pivotal condition.

It goes without saying that such an achievement with AlphaTauri would be a miracle, with just points proving to be elusive for Red Bull’s stuttering sister team this season, Tsunoda accounting for the two scored in the opening 10 rounds.

Brundle then is surprised that Ricciardo chose to accept this option to return to the grid, and believes getting the better of Tsunoda, who has impressed in his third F1 season with AlphaTauri, is an absolute must for this decision to have any chance of paying off.

“I’m really pleased to see him back, but just my honest reaction was, ‘wow, Daniel’s going to do that, is he?’ It surprised me,” Brundle told Sky Sports News.

“Daniel’s always talked about he’s lost his mojo and he needs to get his enthusiasm back, and so I didn’t think he’d take that, unless there’s another deal that goes with it, a ‘you do this and then down the road we’ll do that’.

“I’m sure he’s had six months of sim work and not being a Formula 1 driver and that will have hit him very hard. And so I can fully understand the attraction of being one of the 20 on the grid.

“My overriding feeling here is Formula 1 feels a better place when Daniel Ricciardo’s on the grid, and I hated seeing him having to loiter around all weekend.

“It’s high risk for Daniel in what is probably the slowest car on the grid.

“He’s got to beat Tsunoda, he’s absolutely got to. He needs to edge him in qualy and in the races, that’s an absolute given as an expectation.

“Maybe he can outperform that car, if he can massively outperform that car and get it somewhere near the top 10 and keep it there in the race, then maybe it will be his salvation in that respect.”

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Sergio Perez likely the true target for Daniel Ricciardo

To Brundle’s point that maybe there is “another deal” tied to this AlphaTauri stint for Ricciardo, it can be safely assumed that The Honey Badger is seeing this as an opportunity to audition to replace Perez at Red Bull from 2024.

While Perez is still pumping in the recovery drives to score enough points to stay P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, Red Bull craving that one-two finish, it cannot be ignored that the wheels have really fallen off for the Mexican racer in dramatic fashion.

He is now without a Q3 appearance in the last five grands prix, quite remarkable for a driver at the wheel of an RB19 proving untouchable for the rest at the hands of Verstappen, and the title talk from Perez just a few months ago is a now very distant memory.

Ricciardo has said his “fairytale” final F1 chapter is getting another shot at racing for Red Bull, but by taking on the challenge of the AlphaTauri AT04, he may have taken the most difficult stage from which to prove he is up to the task.

Read next: The AlphaTauri ‘weakness’ that could trip up Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull quest