Red Bull interested in Leclerc: Liberty Media want two “number 1 drivers” at top teams

Jaden Diaz
12 Jul, 2023

Helmut Marko finally made the decision. The signs of Nyck de Vries being replaced were clear from Miami after a difficult start to the year where his results were deemed inadequate.

The Dutchman was fired even before reaching the summer break, after only ten races and without having the chance to compete in his home race. From Hungary, AlphaTauri will have Daniel Ricciardo alongside Yuki Tsunoda, a move that impacts both the Faenza-based team and its parent company – Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo will replace De Vries from Hungary until the end of 2023

Ricciardo visited the Faenza factory in the first half of May to make the seat fitting for the AT04, which was an early sign he was a contender to join the Italian squad.

“I am very pleased to welcome and welcome Daniel back to the team. There is no doubt about his driving skills. He already knows many of us, and therefore his integration with him will be simpler and more direct.

“The team will benefit from so much experience thanks to him, who is an eight-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner. I would also like to thank Nick for his invaluable input during his time at AlphaTauri and wish him all the best for the future,” said AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost in a recent press release.

Christian Horner also gave his input on the recent change:

“It was great to see that Daniel hasn’t lost any of his form, despite being away from racing. The progress that has been seen in the simulator has also been transferred to the track. His times during the tire tests were extremely competitive.

“We are delighted that he can spend the rest of the season, on loan, at Scuderia AlphaTauri.”

It was yesterday that the Australian took to the track with the RB19 for the latest Pirelli tests (relating to the specification of tires without tyre warmers), setting a best time that was seven-tenths off Max Verstappen’s pole position.

A decidedly important time if compared to last weekend’s, which would have put him in an excellent eighth position in last Saturday’s qualifying. “I’m thrilled, I can’t wait to get back on track with the Red Bull family,” the new AlphaTauri driver announced.

Marko’s move is also a warning for Checo Perez, while Red Bull wants to make its Academy smaller and build a ‘dream team’

It must be remembered that Nyck De Vries was first signed because there was an absence of young talent from the Red Bull academy.

It was thought that his ‘experience’ could replace the loss of Gasly, with the Dutchman’s performance in Monza last year proving enough for Red Bull to take a chance on him.

Daniel Ricciardo will be an important boost for AlphaTauri, but his appointment is primarily related to Red Bull’s search for alternatives to improve its current driver line-up.

This crucial time with AlphaTauri will start from the Hungarian GP, and will increase the pressure on Perez. If Ricciardo confirms what the team expects of him (based on his pace at the Silverstone test and speed in the simulator), and Checo continues with fluctuating and disappointing performances, it is not unthinkable that Red Bull will consider changes.

Amidst all of these changes, Red Bull is waiting to try to form a Dream Team in 2025 or 2026. There is a strong will from Liberty Media to try and convince the top teams to have two truly competitive riders in the team in order to revive ‘the show’, even if only one team dominates.

Liberty Media understands that it is very complicated to repeat seasons like the 20-21, even by frequently resetting the technical regulations and with the impossibility of extending their life too much. Therefore, this path is seen as a viable alternative to keep things competitive.

In addition to this, after the death of Dietrich Mateschitz, Oliver Mintzlaff, the main current interlocutor of Christian Horner and Helmut Marko, took over the reins of Red Bull.

Relationships are different than those with Dietrich, with differing visions and strategies regarding the future. Among these aims is to try and have a second top driver within the team. There are also hopes to make the RB academy more efficient, taking away some freedom from the 80-year-old Helmut Marko.

AlphaTauri would thus become a real arrival team in F1, and not just passing by, making Red Bull more independent in terms of drivers. It is no coincidence that in recent weeks, the management of the World Champion team has approached two top drivers whose contracts expire in 2024 and 2025.

We are talking about Lando Norris, defined by Helmut Marko as “the best young driver on the grid” as well as Charles Leclerc, who is certainly the most important and surprising name probed by the Anglo-Austrian team.

There were talks with the Monegasque that took place at the end of May, to understand if there was any possibility that the paths with Ferrari could separate.

This is something Aston Martin has also done previously, in search of a top driver for when Alonso eventually leaves.

That is why Frederick Vasseur has put the renewal of the Monegasque at the top of his agenda for a few weeks, leaving Carlos Sainz on standby for now, who, at least unofficially, does not seem to have taken it very well.

Red Bull’s goal is, therefore, to plan for the not-too-distant future, and put a top driver alongside Max Verstappen while keeping a second driver in reserve.

It is clear that drivers like Norris or Leclerc will be far from simple to hit, but they would provide Red Bull with a talentedexplosive duo that – in the event of prolonged domination – would provide the fireworks in F1.

This is just what Liberty Media is looking for.

Authors: Piergiuseppe Donadoni and Paolo D’Alessandro
Co Author: Giuliano Duchessa

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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