Daniel Ricciardo's return to the F1 grid has been widely celebrated by motorsport fans, but his new team has been given an unfortunate reminder of just how observant those fans can be in the process. Alpha Tauri has had to delete some promotional photos of Ricciardo celebrating his comeback after fans noticed an embarrassing detail once they were posted on social media.
Ricciardo is replacing Nyck de Vries, who was dumped as part of the Red Bull stable in just his first full season of F1. He'd been recruited to Alpha Tauri to replace the outgoing Pierre Gasly after impressing in his 2022 debut, where he scored points for Williams at the Italian GP substituting for Alex Albon.
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Notorious for their ruthless approach with their drivers, F1 fans largely felt Red Bull had been overly harsh towards de Vries after he struggled to find his feet at Alpha Tauri. Making matter worse was their observation that Ricciardo's photo's were just his head, photoshopped onto an existing picture of de Vries in his racing suit.
The team swiftly replaced those pictures with actual shots of Ricciardo once it was pointed out, however the shot of Ricciardo shown above his team garage for the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix appears to still be their earlier photoshopped version.
The practice isn't uncommon in F1, with keen viewers of the Netflix series Drive to Survive remembering a similar process was undertaken when Albon replaced Gasly at Red Bull mid-way through the 2019 season. Nevertheless, the team copped plenty of stick from fans who considered it a further insult to de Vries.
Ricciardo on the other hand, is already focused on proving he still has what it takes at F1 level, with a potential promotion back to his former seat alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull potentially on the line. First though, he'll have to outpace Alpha Tauri incumbent Yuki Tsunoda, who has shown good improvement in 2023 despite their car arguably being the slowest on the grid.
“The car will be what it is,” he said. “I’m going to drive it and work from there. I don’t want to get too much … preconceived ideas.
“I appreciate the car’s going to have its limitations. I’m sure they’re probably just lacking some overall downforce and things like this, but I think if it’s a car that feels balanced – it might not have as much grip as the Red Bull I drove a few days ago – that’s something I can work with.
“I’m looking forward to also developing it and using my experience, and ultimately, I think, for Budapest, just go out and have fun, try and use more right foot than left and have a good time!”
— Fastest Pitstop (@FastestPitStop) July 17, 2023
Daniel Ricciardo impresses for Red Bull prior to F1 comeback
The 34-year-old got his first hit-out in Red Bull machinery since 2018 when he took this year's car through its paces for a tyre test at Silverstone earlier in July. His pace in that test was reportedly a key factor in the decision to insert him in de Vries' place.
While Ricciardo has been keen to keep expectations in check, Red Bull boss Christian Horner flagged the Aussie is undoubtedly chasing a return to the senior team in place of the under pressure Sergio Perez. Despite having impressed earlier in the season, winning two race, Perez has struggled badly as of late, failing to qualify in the top 15 in the last five races.
“Daniel firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull seat, that’s his goal and objective. By going to AlphaTauri he sees that as his best route of steadying his case for 2025,” Horner told the F1 Nation podcast.
Despite having declared that Ricciardo was a shadow of the driver that had departed Red Bull in 2018, where he went on to mixed success with Renault (now Alpine) and McLaren, Horner made the bold declaration that Ricciardo was still one of the quickest on the grid in the wake of the Silverstone test.
“It was great to see Daniel hasn’t lost any form while away from racing, and that the strides he has been making in his sim sessions translate on track," Horner said.
“His times during the tyre test were extremely competitive. It was a very impressive drive and we are excited to see what the rest of the season brings for Daniel on loan at Scuderia AlphaTauri.”
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