Daniel Ricciardo opportunity emerges amid bombshell Max Verstappen development

Ricciardo has received backing from boss Laurent Mekies as he looks to build on a strong qualifying performance in Shanghai.

Red Bull bosses believe Daniel Ricciardo has turned a corner after a difficult start to the Formula One (F1) season. The Aussie has failed to finish his last two races after unfortunate mishaps but his Shanghai retirement masked what was a huge improvement.

Before the 2024 season got underway calls were mounting for Ricciardo to replace Sergio Perez in the senior Red Bull team. But after being out-qualified by teammate Yuki Tsunoda in the first four races of the season and failing to score a single point to Tsunoda's seven, rumours began to swirl that he could be axed from the Visa Cash App (VCARB) team mid-season for youngster Liam Lawson.

Daniel Ricciardo pictured left and Max Verstappen right
Daniel Ricciardo has been backed to turn his early season struggles around when the F1 heads to Miami. Image: Getty

However, as the grid heads to Miami, VCARB boss Laurent Mekies says he has full faith in the Aussie to turn things around and insists he is under no threat of being replaced. In Shanghai Ricciardo dominated VCARB teammate Tsunoda in both sprint qualifying and the qualifying for the grand prix proper.

His speed also was drastically improved in race conditions, before he suffered an unfortunate end to his race when he was taken out by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll under a safety car. A thorn in the side of Ricciardo this year has been his qualifying. But in Shanghai, he outclassed Tsunoda and statistically was closer to Max Verstappen in sprint qualifying than in any qualifying session since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

And Mekies said the performance in China showed "tangible progress" from the Australian and says he is "absolutely" certain he will return to the form that saw him push for a main team seat prior to the 2023 season. "Already in Saudi, we were starting to say that we were seeing stuff that made us understand how to support him better," Mekies told Autosport.

"So yeah, the trajectory is good. We have not reached the finish line there and we have a few things mid-term coming to help him feel better in the car and to make sure that our car suits his driving style the best. But certainly, it will be a good confidence boost to see that there is tangible progress like we saw over [the China] weekend."

And not only is Ricciardo's VCARB seat looking more secure than it was just weeks prior, Red Bull boss Christian Horner says he is in the running for a senior seat in 2025. Before the Chinese Grand Prix Horner gave Ricciardo a roadmap to earning the spot next season.

"I think that it’s pretty much in Daniel’s hands," Horner said. "He needs to show the kind of head-turning form to make not only ourselves, but potentially to make others, take notice."

Red Bull’s top adviser Helmut Marko declared before Shanghai that Ricciardo's way to a senior team seat is to be clearly faster than Tsunoda. "The expectation was that he had to be clearly faster than Yuki if he wanted to have any hope of getting a seat at Red Bull. That hasn’t been the case so far, even if, as I said, it was close. We’ll see how that develops."

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 20: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB Formula One Team during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 20, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Song Haiyuan/MB Media/Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo has been told he must be noticeably faster than Yuki Tsunoda to earn a seat in Red Bull's senior team in 2025.

Reports have emerged this week that F1 world champion Max Verstappen may be headed for a Red Bull exit, in a move that could have a knock-on effect that could benefit Ricciardo. Mercedes are reportedly set to table a world record bid for F1 world champion as the Silver Arrows look to replace Lewis Hamilton. Multiple sources claim the F1 team is preparing a deal worth around $250million a year for Verstappen.

SunSport reported on Tuesday that Verstappen's father Jos and his manager, Raymond Vermeulen, are set to meet the three Mercedes owners this week. The Verstappen camp has made it clear that they are assessing their options for the future after falling out with team boss Christian Horner following an internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour from Horner towards a female colleague. Horner has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.


Verstappen's father said in Bahrain that Horner's position in control of Red Bull was ripping the team apart. Horner has publically said he won't stop Verstappen from leaving the team despite him having a contract that runs until the end of 2028.