He may have signed on as Red Bull Racing’s third driver for next season, but Daniel Ricciardo is unlikely to see any race action with the team in 2023, and possibly beyond.
Ricciardo will return to Milton Keynes in a non-racing role next season — four years after he departed the squad. However, while the position keeps the popular Aussie in the paddock, it doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the grid.
Red Bull announced the signing on Wednesday night, after Ricciardo and the team both indicated during last weekend’s season finale they were in advanced talks.
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The 33-year-old becomes an extension of the team’s driver line-up which includes Ricciardo’s former teammate Max Verstappen, and Mexican racer Sergio Perez.
In his role as third driver, Ricciardo will help Red Bull with testing and simulator work, as well as commercial activity and driver development.
But with all the anticipation of rejoining a top-tier team, Red Bull boss Christian Horner has dismissed claims that Ricciardo could take over from Perez.
Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Horner suggested that Ricciardo’s contract would not include a provision that could see him replace Perez while he completes out two-year arrangement.
“No,” he said.
“Daniel’s contract is very specific for a specific reason.
“We have a contract with Checo for the next two years. The partnership Max and Checo has produced has been phenomenal for us, and they do have a good relationship.
“They’ve raced well for the team, and we’ve got no reason to see that being any different tomorrow or for the duration of their contractual commitment to the team thereafter.”
Perez signed a new, two-year contract in May, a deal that will see him partner Verstappen until the end of the 2024 season.
Talk of Ricciardo moving into the prime position to oust Perez came to a head after Verstappen steadfastly refused to help Perez on the final lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, when Red Bull instructed the two-time world champion to pull over and give Perez sixth place.
There were reports that tension had been simmering since the Monaco Grand Prix with Verstappen believing Perez intentionally crashed at the end of qualifying. Perez went on to win the race while Verstappen finished third.
In another blow to Ricciardo’s hopes, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko also confirmed Kiwi Liam Lawson would come on as the squad’s official reserve driver on top of driving in the Super Formula championship.
Having Lawson in the formal reserve driver role means Ricciardo is not the first choice to replace Verstappen or Perez across a race weekend if either is unfit to compete.
Ricciardo was paid out from McLarenwith one year remaining on his contract to make way for fellow Australian Oscar Piastri at the Woking-based team.
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