Formula 1 Racing

How Ricciardo’s F1 future hangs in the balance

Perez made a strong start to the season as Ricciardo waited in the wings

Five months ago it looked like the safest seat in Red Bull’s Formula 1 stable. An eight-time race winner parked at RB, while offering its A-team an insurance policy.

After all, Daniel Ricciardo was a known quantity to Red Bull and in fact was listed by team principal Christian Horner as his favourite driver in the squad’s history.

Horner was instrumental in bringing him in out of the cold midway through last season as a replacement for Nyck de Vries, ending the Dutchman’s short spell at AlphaTauri. Horner had presumed he could rekindle the fire he once saw in the Australian.

During an explosive few months for Red Bull at the turn of the year following the investigation into Horner after an internal complaint, Ricciardo’s position continued to look strong.

Max Verstappen’s father Jos had made it clear his son could be forced to quit the team with Mercedes falling over itself to sign the world champion. Ricciardo therefore offered Red Bull a back-up if Verstappen did indeed quit, or at least could bide the squad some time while it sourced a long-term replacement.

However, Verstappen’s situation has since calmed down and it is now likely he will remain with the team for another season at least.

Then there is Sergio Perez. If Ricciardo’s job was to put some pressure on the Mexican to deliver, then there is some varying success.

Perez made a strong start to the season as Ricciardo waited in the wings

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

At the start of the year, Perez opened with four podiums in five races, but his form has since dipped somewhat alarmingly – although not enough to dissuade Red Bull from offering him a two-year extension to his contract taking him until the end of 2026.

OPINION: The dangers of Red Bull re-signing Perez

That obviously meant Ricciardo was out of the running for a seat in Red Bull and, barring another move away from team, looked set to remain with RB. However, while team-mate Yuki Tsunoda has also been handed a contract extension, there remains no offer on the table for Ricciardo, who turns 35 next week.

PLUS: How Tsunoda has proved himself as RB’s team leader  in F1

It’s easy to understand why, as his performances this season have been disappointing. Ricciardo was criticised by Jacques Villeneuve as part of Sky F1’s coverage at the Canadian Grand Prix when the 1997 world champion asked, “why is he still in F1?”

The comment upset Ricciardo and his management, but it was…

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