Red Bull chief Helmut Marko has confirmed Daniel Ricciardo will become the team’s third driver next season. Marko made the admission while speaking to Sky Germany after the first free practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
He said: “Ricciardo will be our third driver. We have so many sponsors, we have to do show runs and the like, so of course he’s one of the most high-profile and best-suited.” It means the Australian will return to the team where he previously scored seven race wins before leaving after the 2018 season.
Ricciardo will also rejoin Max Verstappen who was his team-mate for 2016 and 2017. The McLaren driver had been tipped to sign as a reserve driver for either Red Bull or Mercedes since he accepted a full-time race seat was not likely for 2023.
Marko confirmed Red Bull were holding talks with Ricciardo at last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. But, the Austrian stressed any deal would not make a “fixed commitment” on a 2024 race seat.
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Marko also confirmed F2 star Liam Lawson would be the reserve driver across both Red Bull and AlphaTauri next year. The 20-year-old got behind the wheel of Max Verstappen’s car in FP1 setting time just two-tenths slower than Sergio Perez.
Marko added: “Lawson was unfortunately not as successful in Formula 2 as we had hoped, but he has already had a very good run in the AlphaTauri. He’s got potential. He’s going to drive Super Formula in Japan next year and be a reserve driver for Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri. So it’s up to him to make the step up there.”
Ricciardo hinted that a deal with an F1 team was close in Thursday’s press conference but was not drawn on details. When asked if progress was being made on his 2023 destination, the 33-year-old responded that the situation was evolving.
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He explained: “Not yet. I mean, I say progress, yes. But still nothing’s confirmed. But progress is being made. So we’ll see. Yeah, hopefully, you can see my good looks again next year, to some degree.”
Last weekend, Ricciardo refused to accept a deal with Red Bull was a “done deal” and revealed he would offer details when a contract was signed. Ricciardo added: “Not really. There’s nothing yet close or confirmed or anything. I can make something up but nothing new to tell you.
“It’s not, I can tell you now. Nothing is done. Look, as I have said before, I have nothing to hide. From even a contractual point of view in terms of, I guess I’m free to talk and whatever but there’s nothing done. If something was done, trust me, I’d be saying it. So there’s nothing holding that back.”