Jun.26 (GMM) Daniel Ricciardo’s hopes of returning to Formula 1 have been given a major boost by Dr Helmut Marko.
Marko signed up the axed McLaren driver, and former teammate to Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing, to be Red Bull’s reserve, test and ambassadorial driver this year.
Ricciardo, 33, has already been linked with the struggling Nyck de Vries’ race seat at Red Bull’s junior team Alpha Tauri, but the Australian doesn’t sound keen.
“One thing I want to get out of this year is I want to know what I want, but I also want to know what I don’t want. And I think I can already answer that,” said Ricciardo.
“I don’t want to go back to ground zero. I don’t want to just be on the grid to be on the grid and struggle in 18th place.
“I know it’s harder to just jump straight into a top team in terms of availability, but I know I thrive in those situations when there is more on the line.”
For Ricciardo, the fact that Verstappen’s current teammate Sergio Perez has entered a performance slump is perfect timing.
Red Bull’s Marko told the Austrian broadcaster ORF: “After Silverstone, we will have Ricciardo in the car for three days at the tyre test that Pirelli is organising.
“And then we can evaluate – where does Ricciardo really stand?”
Mexican Perez, also 33, is already signed up for 2024 but Red Bull contracts often include termination options.
“His (Perez’s) initial goal was two, three years (with Red Bull),” Marko insisted. “That would be more than he planned anyway, so we just have to keep our options open for the successor.”
Russian F1 commentator Alexey Popov thinks Perez has faded under the pressure of the fight for the drivers’ title.
“He somehow started the season too well,” he said. “Sergio and his father decided that he’s now fighting for the title, and then three times in a row he didn’t get into Q3.
“But to not get into Q3 three times with the dominant car, you almost have to try,” Popov added.