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Latest Ricciardo shambles a reminder the Red Bull must NOT promote him

Latest Ricciardo shambles a reminder the Red Bull must NOT promote him

Latest Ricciardo shambles a reminder the Red Bull must NOT promote him

Latest Ricciardo shambles a reminder the Red Bull must NOT promote him

It may be an unpopular opinion in Formula 1 right now, but here it is: Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t deserve the mythical Red Bull 2025 seat.

If, or when, the dominant team discusses who could replace Sergio Perez after his contract ends at the close of this season, there will be several names mentioned. Liam Lawson, the rookie who made an impact last year as a stand-in for Ricciardo while the Australian driver was injured, may be in the mix.

READ MORE: 'Hamilton is deserting a sinking ship' - GPFans Japanese GP Hot Takes

Other key F1 players out of contract could also come up – Fernando Alonso, the wily veteran and two-time world champion, could move from Aston Martin when his own contract ends after this season, for example.

Of course, given his position in the Red-Bull owned RB team and his history with the Red Bull family, Ricciardo’s name is likely to be noted as a possible replacement for the Mexican driver, should Red Bull not wish to renew Perez's contract. That would certainly be his aim – the Australian, who has won six races with Red Bull in the past, has made no secret of his ambition to return to form with the current top team.

But does he deserve that spot? Looking at his performance this season, it would be hard to justify the 34-year-old graduating back to what is without question the best car on the grid.

After an early departure from the Japanese Grand Prix following a tangle with Alex Albon’s Williams on the first lap, Ricciardo will be watching from the pitlane. He is also yet to make it to the third and final section of qualifying on a race this year, taking 11th place on the grid at Suzuka.

READ MORE: Ricciardo in HUGE smash with F1 rival as Japanese GP red-flagged

Daniel Ricciardo crashed out of the Japanese Grand Prix on the first lap

Ricciardo, the comeback kid

Of course, Ricciardo’s brief departure from a full-time race seat was disappointing, after he was dropped from McLaren at the end of the 2022 season.

His triumphant return to the grid mid-season as a replacement for AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries was a great comeback story, especially for his legions of fans, but his progress since then has somewhat faltered. His performance last season, hampered by a hand injury he sustained at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort, was nothing to write home about, with only one major highlight in Mexico, where he took P7.

By comparison, when Lawson replaced Ricciardo for several races, he put in solid performances for an F1 newbie, clinching two points in Singapore and coming close to the points in Monza and Japan.

And this season, the 34-year-old has been outperformed by Yuki Tsunoda, his RB team-mate, in two of three races. The Japanese driver has also scored RB’s only points so far in 2024, bringing home six in the Australian Grand Prix.

While his name is not often thrown around in the fight for the much-coveted seat in the Red Bull next year, on paper Tsunoda is looking more and more reliable and impressive than his team-mate, even when counting the latter’s experience.

Yuki Tsunoda has outshone Daniel Ricciardo this season

Horner: We have options internally and externally

Despite discussion last year, notably from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, that Ricciardo had returned to his previous form after a difficult and unsuccessful spell at McLaren, F1 fans are still awaiting a golden performance on track reminiscent of those he pulled out of the bag in Monaco in 2018 or Azerbaijan the year before.

Horner has suggested that the British team played a role in Ricciardo's difficulties, saying he picked up some 'bad habits' at McLaren that were ironed out when he returned to the Red Bull fold.

And in December, Horner said of the Red Bull pairing and Ricciardo’s potential to shake it up: “As a team, you want to field the most competitive pairing that you can have, and you want the right dynamic in the team.

“Max and Checo have been a tremendously successful pairing. Checo, in his three years with us, has finished fourth, third and second so he’s on a good trajectory.

“Daniel is well known to us – it's great to have him back in the Red Bull fold – and of course, everything is open for 2025 onwards.

“For us, to have options internally and also externally is no bad place to be.”

But while an experienced pair of hands can be reliable, that has been Perez’s role with the team for several years, and one he has fulfilled with relative success. What would be gained by offering Ricciardo, who is yet to score a point this season and has suffered several fruitless races, a seat at that table? Would the team be better served by taking a risk on Lawson, Tsunoda or a rogue outsider?

Given the Australian’s recent showings, his dream of a nostalgic return to Red Bull is looking ever less likely. Time will tell if, in true Ricciardo style, he can claw his way back to top form, and a Red Bull seat.

READ MORE: Horner thoughts on Ricciardo after sudden Red Bull exit

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