McLaren clarify Daniel Ricciardo situation as Nyck de Vries offered lifeline – F1 news round-up

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, in street clothes. Hungary, July 2023.

AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo in the paddock in street clothes. Hungary, July 2023.

The opening day of on-track action at the Hungaroring is in the books and it has been another busy day full of talking points.

Friday practice did not offer a great deal of clarity on the pecking order heading into qualifying, and the reason for that has been a subject of criticism for multiple drivers.

Daniel Ricciardo officially is back on the grid meanwhile as he took the AlphaTauri AT04 out for a spin for the first time, but were McLaren still paying their former driver to race for a rival team?

Plenty to address then, so let us get stuck into the action…

McLaren no longer financially tied to Daniel Ricciardo

It was a remarkably swift process for Ricciardo to go from impressing Red Bull at the wheel of the RB19 in his Silverstone tyre test, to being confirmed as the replacement for Nyck de Vries at sister team AlphaTauri for the remainder of the season.

The Aussie and that beaming smile was back though on Friday at the Hungaroring as he looks to put that harrowing McLaren experience very much in the rear-view mirror and set about nailing his audition for a future Red Bull return.

That being said, with McLaren having bought Ricciardo out of the final year of his contract, CEO Zak Brown was asked whether McLaren were still paying Ricciardo to this day as he heads into action against them?

“All of our financial arrangements have come to an end,” Brown confirmed to Sky F1.

Read more: McLaren clarify Daniel Ricciardo contract situation after Red Bull trigger sudden F1 return recommends

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Could Nyck de Vries return to Mercedes?

De Vries is now plotting out his next move after that abrupt and brutal axing by Red Bull, the Dutchman unlikely to be short of options with a Formula 2 and Formula E World title on his CV.

But, could his future still involve Formula 1? Mercedes are among the teams which De Vries has previously worked for as a test driver.

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin confirmed he has been in touch with De Vries, but is not sure he will settle now for F1 simulator work.

“I think Nyck will be looking for more than just to become a simulator driver,” Shovlin admitted. “So he’ll want to be doing racing.”

Read more: Mercedes offer potential F1 lifeline to sacked Red Bull driver Nyck de Vries

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton criticise alternate Hungarian GP format

It is not often that former title rivals Verstappen and Hamilton agree on something, but the Hungarian Grand Prix has thrown up a topic which they do share a mutual view on.

That is the first trial of the Alternative Tyre Allocation [ATA] format, meaning drivers are down to 11 sets of slick tyres for the race weekend instead of 13, with the use of hard tyres in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs in Q3 compulsary.

Hamilton though slammed the format, saying it takes “time on track away from the fans” after tyre-saving efforts led to an unrepresentative FP2 order, while Verstappen also was not a fan.

“We have to see what we can do to improve that, because we are literally saving tyres, which I think is not the correct thing,” he said.

Read more: Max Verstappen joins Lewis Hamilton in criticism of altered Hungarian GP format

Red Bull come to Hungaroring armed with “free upgrade”

While Red Bull are battling the handicap of their reduced windtunnel time for a minor 2021 cost cap overspend, and already have cast an eye towards their F1 2024 challenger, that has not stopped the team from introducing their second major upgrade package of this season in Hungary.

This upgrade package focused on the sidepod area, with reports claiming Red Bull can expect to be boosted by a couple of tenths thanks to their work.

But, F1TV’s tech man Sam Collins expects the benefits in lap time to be greater than that, while also detailing why this “very clever” development from Red Bull serves as a “free upgrade” in essence.

“A lot of people are going, ‘What about the wind tunnel time?’ I think they’ve been very clever because radiator redesigns don’t come out of the wind tunnel allocation, so they’ve actually got a bit of a free upgrade on that, I think,” he said.

Read more: Red Bull’s wind tunnel time under public scrutiny after unveiling new sidepods

McLaren quizzed on their powerhouse upgrades

Whatever gains Red Bull do see from their Hungary upgrade, it is safe to say that any package introduced by any team throughout the rest of this season has an extremely high bar to aim for thanks to McLaren.

Across packages introduced in Austria and Britain, McLaren went from picking up scraps in the points-paying positions to being the fastest non-Red Bull team out there, Lando Norris scoring a P2 finish at the British GP, while team-mate Oscar Piastri was unlucky not to join him on the podium.

McLaren’s upgrades understandably sent shockwaves throughout the world of Formula 1 considering how they have totally transformed the MCL60, and Brown was full of praise for his team.

“I think everyone at McLaren did a great job,” he told Sky Sports F1. “We’re coming from a pretty low base from where we were at the start of the year. So I think now is where we should have been and we recognised that early on.”

Read more: McLaren quizzed on upgrades after ‘eyebrows raised’ in F1 paddock

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