‘A real shame’ if Daniel Ricciardo accepts Max Verstappen wingman role

Michelle Foster
Daniel Ricciardo pensive with arms crossed. Britain July 2023

Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo pensive with arms crossed. Britain July 2023

David Croft feels it’s a “real shame” Daniel Ricciardo today will fill the role of Max Verstappen’s wingman, as that means he had “absolutely no reason’ to leave Red Bull in the first place.

Walking away from Red Bull when he saw the Max Verstappen writing on the wall, and unhappy with how the team handled their Azerbaijan Grand Prix fall-out, Ricciardo initially joined with Renault and then McLaren.

But losing his mojo along the way, the late-braking Honey Badger is back with Red Bull racing for their junior team after stepping in to replace the beleaguered Nyck de Vries.

‘That’s where the Ricciardo factor starts to come into play’

The Aussie has made it clear he wants to use the AlphaTauri drive as an audition for promotion to Red Bull and replace Sergio Perez in 2025 as there is still a year to run on the Mexican driver’s contract.

But if Ricciardo rejoins the senior team there is one hard truth he will need to face, like Perez is today, he’ll be Verstappen’s number two.

Speaking about in the latest Sky F1 podcast, presenter Croft asked former F1 driver Karun Chandhok: “Is it a weird paradox that to be a successful driver pairing to Max, you have to accept that you’re number two, but to be the best driver, you never accept that you’re number two and you’re in it to win. Isn’t that like impossible?”

Chandhok, who started 11 F1 grands prix, replied: “In Checo’s situation he’s got to accept he’s against one of the greatest naturally talented drivers ever to sit in a Formula One car.

“For me, the point of all of this is at the moment it’s fine, right? Max is winning the Constructors’ by himself.

“But the reality is, if Mercedes and McLaren and Aston and Ferrari do get it together, and the natural order of things is we will start to see convergence with the stability of rules, that’s just the way Formula 1 has always been, they will get closer, then Max might need a support act and then you can’t have a team-mate who’s not made Q3 for four or five weekends in a row.

“And I think that’s the point I’m trying to make from Red Bull’s perspective. It’s not about this year, this they has done and dusted them, they’re going to clean it up.

“It’s a question of when rather than if, but it’s about what are they going to do for next year. And I think that’s where the Ricciardo factor starts to come into play here.”

But can Ricciardo, a man who left Red Bull to seek pasture green and fight for World titles, slide into a number two role?

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‘If he could, he’d never have left in the first place’

Having left Red Bull because he didn’t want to be a number two driver as Verstappen emerged as Red Bull’s star, fellow panellist Toni Cowan-Brown wonders if Ricciardo could mentally accept a wingman role.

“I wonder when we were talking right at the start of the conversation about Checo Perez being comfortable as the number two,” she told the podcast. “So as long as you’re comfortable with that, then you might be more successful.

“I wonder if someone like Daniel Ricardo is able to have that same mindset shift as well when we think about why he left Red Bull at the beginning. If he can have that same shift and go, ‘You know what, I’m not gunning for World Champion. I just want to be a phenomenal number two driver’.

“And then maybe I wonder if he will get to that.”

“I don’t know the answer to,” replied Croft, before adding: “Wouldn’t that be a real shame? If he did, there would have been absolutely no reason to have left Red Bull in the first place.”

Cowan-Brown: “Exactly that. You can’t rewrite history. But that was the reason why he left.”

Croft: “If he could, he’d never have left in the first place.”

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