It’s been no secret Daniel Ricciardo has been linked with Red Bull in recent times following his sensational exit from McLaren earlier this year.
It’s now been confirmed that the Australian will return to the team which launched his career in a third driver role for the 2023 season.
The eight-time Grand Prix winner was shown the door a year early from his McLaren contract, receiving a payout thought to be in the range of 26 million dollars.
Since then he made his intentions clear about his desire to return to the grid but as vacant seats filled up around him it became clear this was becoming less than likely.
Now his former team have come to the rescue.
“I’m truly excited to be coming back home to Oracle Red Bull Racing as their Third Driver in 2023. I already have so many fond memories of my time here, but the welcome from Christian [Horner], Dr [Helmut] Marko and the entire team is something I’m sincerely appreciative of,” said Ricciardo in a release on the Formula 1 website.
“For me personally, the ability to contribute to and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, whilst also giving me some time to recharge and refocus. I can’t wait to be with the team and support with simulator work, testing sessions and commercial activities. Let’s go!”
Whilst the signing is great for the sport with the Australian remaining in the frame with his wit and great sense of humour, a question was immediately posed as to what this means for New Zealand’s Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson.
The answer is: not a lot.
As Ricciardo mentioned, third drivers are traditionally used in a testing and simulator capacity. As a reserve driver, Lawson is the one who’ll still be the first on hand for practice sessions.
Comments made by Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner support this, the Brit recognising Ricciardo will assist the team in the development of their car.
“In his role as test and third driver, Daniel will give us the chance to diversify, assisting in the development of the car, aiding the team with his experience and knowledge of what it takes to succeed in F1. We’re very pleased to be working with Daniel again and look forward to everything he will bring to the team in 2023.”
Ricciardo also sat down with Australian publisher Speed Cafe for an exclusive interview, which ultimately determined Lawson will still be the one stepping in for track-based activities.
“To make things crystal clear, I’m still not on the grid next year,” Ricciardo confirmed in his chat to Speed Cafe.
Should current Red bull drivers Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez become unavailable for an event then we may see the Australian fill in for a race. But as reserve driver that responsibility could also fall to Lawson.
The Kiwi has proved himself immensely this year, finishing third in the F2 2022 campaign and running three practice sessions. Two of those sessions were for sister team AlphaTauri but it was the third which garnered much international attention as the Kiwi stepped in for Max Verstappen in his championship-winning car in FP1 in Abu Dhabi.
He was impressive in that session, setting the fifth fastest time which was just .2 of a second off that of Perez.
It’s thought Lawson will take to Super Formula in Japan in 2023 whilst maintaining his reserve driver position following comments made from Marko earlier this year.
Whilst it’s great to have Ricciardo remain in the paddock, it’ll do little to disrupt the progression of the 20-year-old Kiwi in his progression towards the main game.
If anything, it’s an added bonus for the Kiwi in his opportunity to learn something from the Australian great.