Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Crimson Bull as a 3rd driver, together with the prospect of him testing a automotive, results in one inevitable query: might he race for the workforce in Method 1 once more?
For the reason that Ricciardo return was prematurely confirmed by Helmut Marko in the course of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, the elephant within the room has been whether or not he has an opportunity of changing Sergio Perez. Not essentially instantly, however within the subsequent couple of years.
Ostensibly there is no such thing as a availability at Crimson Bull earlier than 2025. Changing Verstappen is a no-go – not simply because he’s the double world champion and that is his workforce, he additionally has a contract till the tip of 2028 – and Perez signed a contract extension to the tip of 2024 earlier this yr.
The one path to Ricciardo racing for Crimson Bull can be for both driver to depart, whether or not they bounce or are pushed. And Crimson Bull’s been fast to minimize that prospect.
Crew boss Christian Horner has burdened how particular Ricciardo’s deal is, the actual fact Perez has a deal for the following two seasons, and mentioned there may be “no cause” to count on the Perez/Max Verstappen to not stay sturdy in the course of their contractual commitments.
However Ricciardo has been adamant he would solely goal a transfer that may give him one of the best likelihood of a comeback in 2024.
So, both he intends to make use of a yr at Crimson Bull as a springboard to hitch one other workforce or he believes there may be an outdoor likelihood of a race seat.
And whereas Horner tried to rule Ricciardo out of a future race seat, Ricciardo himself didn’t.
“To be with a prime workforce like Crimson Bull can be good, but it surely’s not a assure that simply because I’m there, that’s the seat I’m taking,” mentioned Ricciardo.
“Clearly, if one thing opens up then I feel simply nonetheless being affiliated to a workforce and attempting to get some work carried out, some testing maybe simply to maintain me sharp, can be good.
“There could possibly be a wider dialog as nicely, maybe with different groups.
“However, that’s a couple of layers eliminated for now.”
On Crimson Bull’s aspect, it’ll need to get extra out of Ricciardo’s return than simply some good PR. And even when the workforce doesn’t admit it publicly, it’s in Crimson Bull’s curiosity to entertain the concept of Ricciardo as a respectable choice.
When the negotiations with Ricciardo began, Crimson Bull might nicely have had zero intention or cause to think about him a substitute for Perez, despite the fact that Perez’s personal kind wasn’t nice when Ricciardo’s McLaren exit was confirmed.
Since then, although, issues have modified. Crimson Bull went into the ultimate race weekend off the again of an issue in Brazil, the place Verstappen refused a workforce order to assist Perez due to an incident that occurred earlier within the yr.
Inside tensions have lately surfaced over Perez allegedly crashing intentionally throughout qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, which helped him beat Verstappen that weekend, resulting in a workforce orders row months later.
Verstappen says that issues are all sq. there now, however there was needle behind the scenes at Crimson Bull between Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Inevitably, one idea emerged within the F1 paddock that Ricciardo has both already been focused as a extra harmonious choice to assuage the Verstappen camp, or that Crimson Bull might use the hypothetical risk of turning to Ricciardo as a weapon to maintain Perez in line.
Perez had a blended remaining weekend of the season. His qualifying efficiency was of a typical that Crimson Bull can haven’t any objections to – a few tenths off Verstappen and forward of Ferrari.
Then he had a barely scrappy grand prix with a few errors that, mixed an inferior technique born from Perez not having the ability to eke out his tyres like Verstappen might, misplaced Perez second within the race and the championship, each to Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
On stability, Crimson Bull would have little cause to interchange Perez. He has received three races for the workforce since becoming a member of in 2021, slotted into an setting that will get one of the best out of Verstappen, and performed an vital position in Crimson Bull’s first constructors’ championship success since 2013.
But when there may be any trace of a disturbed peace internally then his efficiency stage alone is not going to be sufficient to avoid wasting him. Not in Verstappen’s workforce, given Perez is enjoying second fiddle.
Even when Perez’s place is in any manner weak, there is no such thing as a assure Ricciardo can be favorite to interchange him.
However bringing Ricciardo again into the fold, getting him on the simulator and placing him in a automotive in testing will let Crimson Bull correctly consider a driver that Horner has repeatedly advised has simply suffered a brief lack of kind in a selected set of circumstances at McLaren.
If Ricciardo decides a full F1 comeback is his precedence for 2024, we all know he’ll choose a prime workforce. Inevitably, the primary one he targets would be the one he’ll already be part of.
Wherever Crimson Bull is basically at with the concept of Ricciardo as a long-term driver prospect, re-signing him goes to make him a key a part of the motive force line-up narrative in 2023.
The perfect factor Perez can do in response is make a cast-iron case on-track and off it that he nonetheless is the most suitable choice.