Was Pirelli tyre test the real trigger for Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull return?

Thomas Maher
Daniel Ricciardo smiling during a seat fit. July 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo smiling during a seat fit. July 2023.

Sky F1 broadcaster Martin Brundle doubts Daniel Ricciardo’s Pirelli tyre test is the real reason behind his call-up to AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo made shock headlines during this week, as Red Bull made the decision to remove rookie Nyck de Vries from his cockpit at AlphaTauri after just 10 races, in order to plonk the veteran Ricciardo back into their junior team.

Given Ricciardo’s two poor years with McLaren and decision to take a sabbatical in 2023, the decision was apparently taken after the Australian impressed Red Bull during a Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone after the British Grand Prix.

Martin Brundle: A Pirelli tyre test is not representative

Much has been made of Ricciardo’s reported laptime from the first few hours of the Pirelli tyre test on Tuesday – apparently good enough to put him on the front row for the British Grand Prix alongside Max Verstappen.

The time led Christian Horner to make a quick phone call to Helmut Marko, who then called Nyck de Vries to fire him from his seat and rehire Ricciardo to the team he last raced for back in 2013.

Having stepped away from Formula 1 after two tough years at McLaren, Ricciardo had spent the first half of this year evaluating his career and trying to see whether the desire for competition still burned – a desire he’s since revealed still burned despite the sour taste left after his stint at McLaren.

But, while all the indications are that Ricciardo’s impressive showing in the Pirelli tyre test was the catalyst behind the sequence of events at Red Bull, Brundle doubts the Australian did anything compelling enough for it to be the true reason.

“You can do your time all day long on a track that’s rubbered in from the Grand Prix, it’s not representative, and I can’t believe that’s what made their mind up,” Brundle told Sky Sports News.

“Quite clearly, the fact he was in the car in the first place tells you all you need to. Why was he in it otherwise? They’ve not exactly hidden the fact that they were getting to the end of the line with De Vries.”

With Ricciardo returning to F1 in what is one of the slowest F1 cars on the grid, the challenge for the former Red Bull racer to get back into contention for a Red Bull seat will be in trying to compete against the impressive Yuki Tsunoda – the Japanese driver having come on in leaps and bounds this season.

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

“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.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2024 driver line-up: Who is confirmed for next season’s grid?

Explained: How the FIA develops potential new F1 rules and regulations

Martin Brundle: Formula 1 a better place with Daniel Ricciardo in it

The broadcaster, a former F1 driver in the 1980s and ’90s, said he had hated seeing Ricciardo sidelined from the sport, given the form he’d shown up until joining McLaren and the potential race performances he’s capable of.

“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 said.

“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.”

The fact that De Vries is out on his ear after such a short period of time has earned Brundle’s sympathy as well, saying the Dutch driver didn’t have enough time to adjust to life at the top level in motorsport.

“I’m sad for Nyck because I know he’s better than that,” Brundle said.

“People will often hear me say on commentary, it’s hard to get to Formula 1, but it’s even harder to stay there. Because on your way up, you’re all potential, and then suddenly you’ve got reality, and there’s no hiding from that.

“He’s not even had half a season, in what is quite clearly a difficult car – his team-mate’s a lot more experienced.

“Has it gone well for Nyck? No. Quite clearly to me, desperation has crept into his driving in recent races, quite a lot of desperation. He’s got into some skirmishes he shouldn’t have been in, and it’s just been really sad to watch because I think he’s better than that.”

Read Next: Liam Lawson responds to being overlooked by Red Bull as Nyck de Vries replacement