Yuki Tsunoda could become Red Bull’s new reserve driver for the F1 2024 season if AlphaTauri opt to sign both Daniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson, it has been claimed.
In his third full campaign with AlphaTauri, Tsunoda has emerged as one of the stars of the 2023 season by claiming all of the Red Bull junior team’s three points finishes in Australia, Azerbaijan and Belgium.
Despite enjoying his strongest season to date, however, it has been reported that Tsunoda could be left without a seat for 2024 as Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s driver dilemma becomes increasingly complex.
Yuki Tsunoda set to become Red Bull’s new reserve driver?
Tsunoda had been widely expected to be retained alongside Daniel Ricciardo for next year after the Australian replaced Nyck de Vries – dropped by AlphaTauri after failing to score a point in the opening 10 races – ahead of July’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
However, the hand injury Ricciardo sustained in a practice crash at last month’s Dutch GP saw the highly rated Liam Lawson, a long-term member of Red Bull’s celebrated driver academy, step up in his place.
With Lawson impressing in his first two appearances at Zandvoort and Monza, it has been claimed AlphaTauri may decide to retain the New Zealander alongside Ricciardo for 2024 – leaving Tsunoda without a race seat.
According to a column by Chris Medland of RACER, Tsunoda may slot into the Red Bull reserve role previously held by Alex Albon.
Albon was demoted to a reserve role in 2021 after Red Bull decided to sign Sergio Perez to race alongside Max Verstappen, but has emerged as one of the standout performers of the current campaign due to his point-scoring exploits for the Williams team.
Although AlphaTauri have historically trained drivers to race for Red Bull, Medland claims “there are no serious noises to suggest” Tsunoda would be considered for a promotion to the main team in the future with the Japanese driver viewed as an “appeasing choice” to Red Bull’s existing engine partners Honda.
In May, Honda announced an engine partnership with Aston Martin for the 2026 season, leading to suggestions that Tsunoda’s future may ultimately lie with the Silverstone-based team.
The report claims the writing was on the wall for Tsunoda when, ahead of the 2023 season, De Vries was the only AlphaTauri driver to have a seat fitting for Red Bull – indicating the Dutchman would have got the nod to race the RB19 car had Verstappen or Perez been unfit to race.
In a separate report, ESPN have claimed Ricciardo – set to return to the paddock at this weekend’s Singapore GP – is “confident” of securing a full-time drive with AlphaTauri for next season and retains ambitions of replacing Perez at Red Bull at the end of 2024 despite his injury setback.
It is said that Ricciardo has been “encouraged” by AlphaTauri’s plans to enjoy closer ties with Red Bull next season, with the team set to mimic Haas’s relationship with Ferrari by running as many parts as the rules allow from the reigning World Champions.
Ricciardo is not scheduled to return from injury until next month’s Qatar GP at the earliest, with Lawson set to be afforded two more races to state his case in Singapore and Japan.
Prior to his AlphaTauri call-up, Lawson had been competing in the Japanese-based Super Formula category in 2023 and remains in contention for the title with one round remaining.
The season finale is set to take place at Suzuka on October 29 on the same day F1 stages the Mexico City GP at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.