The devil may work hard, but the Formula 1 rumour mill works even harder. Thankfully, we can rely on ESPN to debunk outlandish claims about the grid, like the most recent one linking Daniel Ricciardo to AlphaTauri.
Ever since the confirmation of Danny Ric’s homecoming to Red Bull as the third man behind reigning two-time world champion Max Verstappen and Sergio “Checo” Perez, fans and pundits alike have speculated about when we’d actually see the Honey Badger return as a full-time driver.
Given Verstappen isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and the fact that Checo still has until the end of the 2024 season as outlined by his contract – despite grumblings of discontent from Verstappen’s camp, as per Ralf Schumacher – there simply isn’t any room for Ricciardo to milk his competitive years for what they’re worth right now. Enter: Red Bull’s junior outfit.
While it seemed rather unlikely that Ricciardo would choose to take a step back in his professional motorsport career, having driven for AlphaTauri (then known as Toro Rosso) before partnering with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, at the very least, he’d be a full-time driver. Not a reserve.
Then, after an alleged seat fitting at AlphaTauri’s headquarters in Faenza, Italy which supposedly occurred this past week, the unlikely suddenly seemed… real. Coupled by the signature charms of Red Bull advisor + head of driver development, Dr Helmut Marko, who has reportedly given the struggling team rookie Nyck de Vries until the Spanish Grand Prix to demonstrate improvements to his performance, you can easily see how all this took on a life of its own.
“While it is understood Red Bull’s senior figures have been frustrated and underwhelmed with the [Nyck de Vries’] recent form, sources have told ESPN that Ricciardo is not in the frame to replace him and that no conversations have taken place with him about that scenario,” explains Nate Saunders of ESPN.
“Red Bull junior Liam Lawson, who is racing in Super Formula, would be the primary candidate to step in should de Vries be released by the team… Sources close to Ricciardo told ESPN he did not visit Faenza at any point this week.”
Furthermore, since departing from a rocky stint with McLaren Racing which still yielded a race win at Monza, Daniel Ricciardo has made it perfectly clear time and time again that he’s holding out for a Red Bull Racing seat – not AlphaTauri, not Alpine, not Haas, and definitely not Williams.
“Everything feels really great. Like honestly, it’s just been so refreshing, coming back into this team and also just taking like one step back and, let’s say, removing myself from the competition this year,” the Aussie told BH when we interviewed him at the 2023 Melbourne Grand Prix.
“It’s weird for me to say it because it’s been my life and I love the competition, like that’s the core essence of why I do this. It’s not for the fame or whatever it is. It’s ‘cos I love competing, but obviously, yeah, it just got to a point in the last couple of years… I just need to take a break.”
“So I feel like this is now kind of one step back to hopefully then take two forward. But being back with this team, it’s 1,000% the best thing for me.”
By all accounts, however, Daniel Ricciardo is just 10 minutes away from being ready to get back behind the wheel and leave a lasting impression on the track. At least, according to Christian Horner.
Hopefully, neither the man himself nor the fans will be waiting too long for that fateful day.