Horner: Ricciardo earned AlphaTauri drive within three laps

Jaden Diaz

Red Bull shocked the driver market last week by announcing Daniel Ricciardo as an immediate replacement for Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri. The Australian will make his heavily anticipated F1 comeback at the Hungarian GP.

Speculation on the jeopardy of De Vries’ position has been common in recent months, but the almost instant decision to promote Ricciardo during his test at Silverstone caught most of the F1 space off-guard.

Helmut Marko’s frustration with De Vries has been clear for some time, with the Red Bull advisor also admitting that Christian Horner was never convinced of the Dutchman’s abilities.

The Red Bull team principal has explained how quickly it was decided to give the 8-time race winner another opportunity:

“Within his third or fourth lap, he was within a second of what our drivers were achieving.

“In his first run on tyres that were comparable… on probably his 7th lap of the day, [he set a lap] that would’ve put him on the front row.”

These are encouraging words and, considering the impressiveness of Yuki Tsunoda’s performances, will make the 34-year-old’s AlphaTauri debut in Hungary all the more interesting.

It is clear that Ricciardo – who has spoken openly about his desire to drive for Red Bull – is not returning to AlphaTauri to spend several years in the midfield.

Considering the recent struggles of Sergio Perez, which could become a bigger issue as other teams become more competitive over the winter, it is clear this move is targeted at evaluating alternatives to the Mexican driver.

Speaking after the official announcement, Christian Horner was clear that Ricciardo’s comeback is Red Bull-related:

“From a Red Bull Racing perspective, the most interesting option for me was to see how Daniel performs. So that was the decision that was made.

“It all happened pretty quick, and here he is for the Hungarian Grand Prix.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 02: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive on the grid during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on April 02, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202304020273 // Usage for editorial use only //

Although the British team principal insists the Australian will aim for a 2025 seat, this seems little more than a diplomatic statement to avoid publicly pressurising Perez.

Red Bull has shown very recently they are not afraid of being aggressive with their drivers and. If Ricciardo performs, there is no reason he cannot contend for a Red Bull seat next season.

Yuki Tsunoda also has an opportunity to further showcase his abilities and face off against a far more decorated profile than that of his previous teammate.

Regardless of how this unexpected saga ends, it seems clear that nothing is off the table for Helmut Marko and the Austrian squad.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang