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Why Red Bull’s F1 system is destroyed, and Ricciardo problem proves it

Why Red Bull’s F1 system is destroyed, and Ricciardo problem proves it

Why Red Bull’s F1 system is destroyed, and Ricciardo problem proves it

Why Red Bull’s F1 system is destroyed, and Ricciardo problem proves it

With every passing race weekend, and each new twist in the tapestry of the Formula 1 driver market, the inevitability of Sergio Perez extending his stay with the Red Bull team increases.

The Mexican’s time with the Milton Keynes-based squad has been largely underwhelming so far. At his best the 34-year-old has been a steady if unspectacular rear gunner for team-mate Max Verstappen, while at his worst he has been consistently unable to progress through the early rounds of qualifying, leaving his triple world champion colleague unprotected from rivals at McLaren and Ferrari.

After a strong start to the season in which he helped seal relatively rear one-two finishes for the team in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Japan, Perez has fallen away again, finishing now higher than fourth in the last three races and dropping to fifth position in the drivers’ standings.

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Despite those disappointing results, paddock gossip and comments from both team advisor Helmut Marko and boss Christian Horner indicate that Perez’s deal will shortly be renewed for a further season, taking him to the end of 2025.

That Red Bull appear keen to renew their agreement with a driver who suffers from a lack of qualifying pace in comparison to his team-mate and whose inconsistency could potentially leave them vulnerable in the event the gap between them and the cars behind decreases, indicates the lack of faith the team has in any of the potential replacement on the grid, least of all the other drivers in its own stable.

Where once the sister team – in its various guises of Toro Rosso, AlphaTauri and now RB – existed to bed young drivers into the top tier of motorsport before a potential shot at the big time, it now resembles more of holding pen for those whose careers have stalled to some degree.

Does Red Bull's sister team no longer serve its purpose?

That Yuki Tsunoda, the 24-year-old Japanese who has steadily improved during his three-and-a-bit seasons with RB, seems to have no hope of securing the second senior team drive alongside Verstappen only emphasises the bottleneck that the broken Red Bull system has developed.

Tsunoda is comprehensively beating his vastly more experienced team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, regularly reaching the final round of qualifying in a car which cannot match the raw pace of its more illustrious rivals around most circuits, and is consistently delivering points as he largely maximises his race weekends.

Sure, he remains untested at a higher level, still makes unforced errors a little too regularly, and would need to be moulded into the sort of consistent foil for Verstappen which Red Bull are no doubt ideally aiming for.

But the fact that his stellar form is not enough to give him even an outside chance of a promotion brings into question the ongoing purpose of the RB team – if it is longer the proving ground for drivers aiming for the top, like Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, and Ricciardo himself in his early career, then what is it for?

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Red Bull seem to have, perhaps understandably, been scarred by their experiences with Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon in the past. Both drivers demonstrated clear talent in their time with the sister team, before stepping up to the seat alongside Verstappen and toiling to the extent that they were quickly dropped.

Perez was brought in as a safer pair of hands, and to his credit has helped deliver two consecutive constructors’ championships for the team, as well as a smattering of very impressive race victories around street circuits.

Ricciardo returned to RB last season in place of Nyck de Vries after impressive in a test at Silverstone. The aim was no doubt to assess whether, following his very disappointing spell at McLaren, he would outclass Tsunoda and demonstrate enough speed and consistency to justify replacing Perez in either 2024 or 2025.

Daniel Ricciardo returned to Alpha Tauri in 2023

That experiment has unquestionably failed. The Australian has largely trudged to mediocre results since his return and has come up far too short against Tsunoda to be deemed further of driving for a team at the front of the field.

Once signed, Perez’s new contract will provide him with the kind of certainty about his future that Tsunoda and Ricciardo can only dream of.

For the foreseeable, both drivers face a series of serious questions about their respective futures in the sport.

And if they drop off the grid or move on to rivals in the midfield, fans will be left wondering what on Earth the point of Red Bull’s second Formula 1 team is anymore.

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