Ricciardo signs on to be a 'third' driver, but there's no realistic path to the Formula 1 grid with the championship team.
- Daniel Ricciardo initially left Red Bull for Renault for 2019, before joining McLaren on a three-year deal in 2021.
- Ricciardo finished a disappointing 12th in the F1 driver standings this year and was dropped by McLaren.
- The deal with Red Bull will include work on the team’s simulator and promotional work.
Outgoing McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo will spend 2023 as Red Bull Racing’s third driver in Formula 1.
It comes after a tumultuous couple of seasons for the Australian, who initially left Red Bull for Renault for 2019, before joining McLaren on a three-year deal in 2021.
The third year of that contract was supposed to cover 2023 but amid a lack of performance the parties agreed a mutual split after 2022.
Ricciardo, 33, appeared reluctant to chase another race drive, with the main opportunities at backmarker teams, and zeroed in on a reserve role at a front-running operation. He has now reunited with reigning champions Red Bull, for whom he won seven races during a five-year spell from 2014 through 2018, having previously been part of its decorated junior program.
Daniel Ricciardo finished 12th in the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship this season, his worst finish since 2013.
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Red Bull Racing is calling Ricciardo is its third driver, not its reserve driver, with that position expected to be taken by youngster Liam Lawson, who was third in Formula 2 championship standings this year.
Still, Ricciardo’s role sounds very much like that of a traditional reserve driver.
In a statement Red Bull Racing outlined that Ricciardo will “assist the team with testing and sim work, as well as commercial activity.” Red Bull has Sergio Perez contracted through 2024 with Max Verstappen on a deal that runs until 2028.
Speaking during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that “Daniel is a big character, it’s been disappointing to see his performance this year.
“I think he would have wanted a lot more out of the season, but he’s still one of the biggest names, one of the biggest characters in Formula 1. He obviously has a history as being a Red Bull Junior, and just with the demands that are on the race drivers these days, just from a marketing perspective alone, we’re very active as a team, we do many, many show runs and events and to have a driver of Daniel’s profile and history with the team, within the group is only an asset for us.”
Ricciardo described himself as “truly excited to be coming back home to Red Bull Racing.”
“For me, the ability to contribute to and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, whilst also giving me some time to recharge and refocus.”
Ricciardo has previously indicated that Abu Dhabi could have been his final grand prix though is still determined to return to Formula 1 in the future.
In spite of his struggles Ricciardo has remained a popular figure courtesy of his engaging personality, and was one of the breakout stars of the Drive to Survive series that exposed Formula 1 to a fresh fanbase.
It is difficult to envisage a route back to a top team in the short-term, given the paucity of options, his recent form, and the prospect of promising youngsters emerging from the FIA pyramid.
“No. Daniel’s contract is very specific for a specific reason,” said Red Bull team principal Horner when asked if Ricciardo’s deal includes a path back to the Red Bull race lineup. “We have a contract with Checo for the next two years. What the partnership of Max and Checo has produced has been phenomenal for us.
“They’ve raced well for the team and we’ve got no reason to see that being any different tomorrow or for the duration of their contractual commitment to the team thereafter.”
Before a wheel has been turned in the 2023 season, Red Bull and Ferrari have their drivers under contract for 2024, as do Alpine and McLaren—teams that Ricciardo has already left anyway. Mercedes ostensibly has a 2024 vacancy but Lewis Hamilton, contracted only for 2023, has said that he and Mercedes will discuss a new multi-year deal during the off-season.
Keyword: What Daniel Ricciardo's New F1 Deal Means for Red Bull