How Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo intends to spend the 2023 F1 season

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How Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo intends to spend ’23Arturo Holmes – Getty Images

  • After nearly 12 years on the Formula 1 grid, Daniel Ricciardo finds himself in a reserve role for 2023.

  • Although Red Bull’s recruitment of Ricciardo following his release from McLaren was facilitated by his marketability, he is still poised to play a part in Red Bull’s attempts to retain both titles.

  • Ricciardo will run the Red Bull simulator and is likely to test the RB19 race car briefly during tire testing during the season.

For the first time since he started climbing the ladder to Formula 1, Daniel Ricciardo is entering a new year without a place on the F1 grid.

After nearly 12 full seasons on the Formula 1 grid, Ricciardo was left without a seat after he and McLaren agreed to terminate a three-year contract a season early.

This came amid a string of disappointing performances, operating in the shadow of rising star Lando Norris, while Ricciardo was subsequently reluctant to chase another place in a midfield or full-back squad as his options dwindled.

“I’m looking forward to not racing at that level for 12 months,” Ricciardo said in New York on Friday at the Red Bull livery launch.

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Max Verstappen, left, and Daniel Ricciardo converse at the launch of the Red Bull RB19 in New York.ED JONES – Getty Images

Instead, Ricciardo signed a third-driver contract with Red Bull, the team that buoyed his junior career and with which he raced from 2014 to 2018, notching seven of his eight career F1 wins.

The deal means Ricciardo is not de facto a reserve driver – with young Liam Lawson officially in the role – but instead Red Bull will use Ricciardo’s lively and infectious personality for marketing and ambassadorship opportunities. It is a sign of Ricciardo’s popularity, particularly in the United States, that he can still command a spot in the charts Late showdespite no longer being one of Formula 1’s 20 full-time drivers.

Ricciardo returned to his native Australia for the winter—”spending it with family, cycling, doing things I’d normally do but couldn’t enjoy it to the level I did this year”—before heading off to the United States, where he will stay to attend next Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“The older you get, the more you need them in your life,” she said. “It was nice to be home and spend quality time with family and friends. I didn’t think too much about the racing or the season, I just savored it. Every year at home I always think about training or am busy with something and it was nice to be completely out. I owed it to them, I owed a real one-on-one meeting to the people I love.

While Ricciardo’s recruitment was facilitated by his marketability, he is still set to play a part in Red Bull’s attempts to retain both titles. Ricciardo will run the Red Bull simulator, making suggestions based on his experience, and he is likely to test the RB19 briefly in tire testing during the season.

“On race weekends I will listen [to meetings]and if I’m not on the circuit I’ll have access to information, I’ll be on channels with the engineers and understand what trends we might see,” he said. “Even if they win every race, no car is perfect. You always try to chase something, so to understand development, and maybe if I have an insight from the last few years I can give guidance and advice, or test something in the simulator and give feedback.

Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull brings a reunion with Max Verstappen, now two-time reigning Formula 1 world champion, and Ricciardo’s teammate from 2016-18.

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Max Verstappen, left, and Daniel Ricciardo were teammates at Red Bull from 2016-18.MAL FAIRCLOUGH – Getty Images

“He’s always been a professional and super nice guy to work with,” Verstappen said. “In the factory, the people on the simulator can count on his experience; he’s been racing in F1 for a long time, he’s a race winner, so we’re very happy to have him on board, that’s for sure.

Verstappen’s current team-mate Sergio Perez agrees, feeling Ricciardo “will be of great help” throughout the season as he will “understand what we are talking about when we talk about the car”.

Ricciardo’s signing, even in a small capacity, understandably raises theories about whether he puts extra pressure on Perez.

“No, when you’re at Red Bull, you have to give it your all,” replied Perez. “It doesn’t matter if Daniel is here or not.”

However, Perez is under contract until 2024, while Ricciardo – who has downplayed the prospect of a guest appearance in another league – is not (yet) actively looking for a place.

“I’m still, shall we say, taking a day-to-day approach,” she said. “I’m trying not to push too hard that, like, by March 1, I really need to know how I’m feeling. I just want it to happen naturally. Being at the launch excites me and it’s a great feeling, but I’m also very happy to take the year that I’m taking. Seems legit.

“I kind of want that mental free time. The competition is great, I really love it, but so is a lot.

“If I had to get into something else [in 2023] there would be a level of expectation, so I’d like to make sure I can enjoy it, as that’s what this year is really about: a chance to take a more light-hearted approach to things, and just relax. If I got into something that put a lot of pressure on me, I don’t know if I would enjoy it, I don’t think that’s what 2023 is asking of me.”

Ricciardo stressed that if he decides to return to racing, Formula 1 is still the priority, but stressed: “If I pass this year and say ‘you know what, I don’t want to race in F1 anymore, I’ve done my time’, whatever, then maybe I’ll see if there’s anything else I’m interested in, but [in terms of] the pure competition that I’m looking forward to just this year off.

Ricciardo won’t participate in the first couple of grands prix in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia “so maybe [watching on TV] it will warm up some emotions” but will be on his home turf in Australia in early April. This, he says, could affect his long-term prospects.

“Being around the whole atmosphere, the noise, the sound, the smell… will probably do what it does,” Ricciardo mused. “And if I’m like, yeah, stoked and excited and eager to come back or happy to be a fan for a while longer, we’ll see. I think Melbourne will tell me a lot.”

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