Ricciardo returns to Red Bull as the third driver
Daniel Ricciardo has joined Red Bull as their third driver for the 2023 season.
He will assist Red Bull with testing and simulation tasks as well as commercial activities, the team said.
Ricciardo said he was “really excited” to return to the team for which he won seven grands prix between 2014 and 2018, before leaving for Renault.
Team principal Christian Horner said: “It’s great to bring Daniel back into the Red Bull family. He’s got massive talent and such a brilliant character.
“I know the whole family is excited to welcome him home.
“In his role as third driver, Daniel will give us the opportunity to diversify, helping with aero development, helping the team with his experience and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in F1 “.
A smiling Ricciardo said the welcome he had been given by Red Bull motorsport adviser Horner and the entire team was “something I sincerely appreciate”.
“The ability to contribute and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is very attractive, while also giving me time to recharge and focus,” he added.
How did Ricciardo end up back at Red Bull?
Ricciardo spent five seasons with Red Bull and left at the end of 2018 because he felt the team was focusing more and more on Max Verstappen, to his detriment.
He moved to Renault in 2019, on a lucrative contract worth more than $50 million over two years, but decided before the delayed start of the 2020 season that he would. leave for McLaren in 2021.
Ricciardo claimed Renault’s first podium for nine years at the Eifel Grand Prix towards the end of the 2020 season, and took a second at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix two races later.
After joining McLaren, Ricciardo won the 2021 Italian Grand Prix – took the team’s first win for nine years and took team-mate Lando Norris to one – but for most of the year he struggled to match the Briton.
When these problems continued in 2022, McLaren decided they needed to replace him and negotiated an end to his contract, which was due to run until the end of 2023, in the summer. They signed Australian Oscar Piastri as Ricciardo’s replacement.
Ricciardo has admitted he doesn’t fully understand why he has struggled for performance at McLaren, and the team feels the same. He decided to sit out a year in 2023 rather than sign for a team further down the grid, but has said he is determined to return to F1 in 2024.
Ricciardo was a junior driver for Red Bull and the company paid for his debut with the HRT team in the second half of 2011, before placing him with their second team Toro Rosso for the 2012-13 season.
He then graduated to Red Bull in 2014, following Mark Webber’s retirement, and beat four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in his first season with the team, winning three races over the German.
Could Ricciardo race for Red Bull again?
The relationship between Red Bull’s two-time world champion Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez was strained at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.
Verstappen refused a team order to allow Perez to pass for sixth at the end of the race to help the Mexican chase second place in the drivers’ championship.
Verstappen said he had his “reasons” for refusing, and they had to do with “something that happened in the past”. Perez said it “showed what kind of person” the Dutchman was.
It has since emerged that the tension was over Verstappen’s belief that Perez deliberately crashed late in qualifying at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, securing his third place on the grid ahead of Verstappen. Perez won the race.
Perez described this version of events as “just speculation and people are creating rumours”, adding: “This rumor is wrong”. He also said he regretted his criticism of Verstappen.
Horner insisted the two drivers had spoken and cleared the air.
F1 officials have pointed out that Ricciardo’s presence at the team is a convenient way to keep Perez in line, knowing that Red Bull already has a potential replacement signed if relations with Verstappen sour again.
At last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Ricciardo was first tipped to take on the role, Horner was asked if Ricciardo could “become a long-term option as a racing driver”.
He replied: “No. Daniel’s contract is very specific for a specific reason. We have a contract with Checo for the next two years.”
Horner said Ricciardo was joining to help take the burden off the racing drivers in areas such as marketing, such as racing and show car events, and would also be used to advance the car’s development in the simulator