EXCLUSIVE: Ricciardo on crunch test that could decide his F1 future

Today marks Daniel Ricciardo’s first drive in a Red Bull car since leaving the team in 2018, and it could end up determining his F1 future.  
EXCLUSIVE: Ricciardo on crunch test that could decide his F1 future

Ricciardo is swapping the now familiar confines of Red Bull’s simulator to get behind the wheel of the RB19 for real during a post-British Grand Prix tyre test at Silverstone, with the Australian getting three days of running under his belt. 

It marks Ricciardo’s first on-track outing for Red Bull since rejoining the team over the winter in a reserve capacity, having lost his full-time drive with McLaren at the end of an underwhelming two-year spell. 

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After all the well-documented struggles that unquestionably damaged his reputation, Ricciardo is relishing the opportunity to get his hands on the most competitive F1 car he has ever driven. 

“That makes me really happy. It’s pretty crazy,” Ricciardo told Crash.net. “I had a couple years of struggling being in a car that never really felt good for me. 

“Obviously I lost my seat and it was like ‘shit, my career is over type thing’. And now, six months later I’m getting to drive the best car. 

“Even that alone I’m just taking it all in my stride. I’m very appreciative and excited. I know I’ll be watched. I know it’s not just ‘hey man, go and do some laps for us’. 

"Of course at this level everyone’s watching. But there’s no pressure. I’m just treating it as something that’s going to be an amazing experience, something that’s going to spark me again.” 

Complete with his trademark grin, Ricciardo couldn't resist adding: “I’m just going to casually set a lap record!”

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing Reserve and Third Driver. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix,
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing Reserve and Third Driver. Formula 1…

Much has been made of the test given the recent struggles of Sergio Perez and AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries, especially after Red Bull’s Helmut Marko suggested that Ricciardo will be “evaluated”. 

But a return to Red Bull for Ricciardo next year looks highly unlikely. 

Red Bull have repeatedly stressed they have no plans to replace Perez before his contract expires at the end of 2024 and after the British Grand Prix, team principal Christian Horner all but ruled out Ricciardo being offered the Mexican’s seat next season. 

"It’s not something that we’re planning, that’s for certain,” Horner said. “It was right to give him the opportunity this year to remain within the team and keep him around the sport. I think it would have been a loss to the sport just to see him disappear.” 

Despite both Marko and Horner admitting they want to see an uptick in Perez’s qualifying form soon, his Red Bull seat appears safe - for now at least. 

The same cannot be said for the under-pressure de Vries, making an AlphaTauri drive a much more realistic prospect for Ricciardo’s hopes of securing a full-time return in 2024. Horner is believed to be keen for that to happen, while Marko still needs some persuading. 

Ricciardo told Crash.net at Silverstone that he would be open to racing for AlphaTauri next year, but only if it eventually “creates a path” back to the senior team.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing Reserve and Third Driver with fans. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, British
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing Reserve and Third Driver with fans…

It is a big week for Ricciardo as he looks to make the most of his opportunity to remind Red Bull what he is capable of and subsequently boost his aspirations of making an F1 comeback. 

Talks between Ricciardo and Red Bull over his future have been put on hold until after the test. So does he feel the upcoming week could define the rest of his career?

“When you put it like that it sounds like this test is the biggest thing I’ll ever do,” the recently-turned 34-year-old answered. 

“Just on a personal level, I’ll know if I do perform well, I’ll probably have happy tears and it’ll just give me that clarity and vision going forward. Like this is me, this is what I want. 

“I think this is a one percent chance, but there is a world where maybe I’m a little bit tentative, or a little bit cautious. Like if I don’t feel good in this car, what car am I ever going to feel good in? 

“I think I’m going to get a very black-and-white answer, but I’m pretty convinced it’s going to be happy tears.” 

Ricciardo expects the test will help him discover “how my heart feels” about an F1 return and eradicate any final doubts he may have. 

“That is what I’m looking for,” he explained. “I’ve definitely got that now in the simulator. I’m getting in the simulator and I’m [slaps hands] back to me - not cocky, but I’m confident. 

“It definitely feels like me again and I expect to feel like me in the real car. It’s like all these things as drivers, we all believe we can win, but until we do, we don’t know. 

“So I believe that the test will go well but I’ve got to do it. I think it will give me a lot of good feelings.”

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