Formula One commentator David Croft has made the bold prediction that Daniel Ricciardo could be back in a full-time seat with Red Bull in 2024 in place of Sergio Perez. The Aussie driver is back at the F1 team where he started his career in 2023, but in a reserve role behind Perez and double world champion Max Verstappen.
Ricciardo was released from his contract with McLaren last year after two years of sub-par results. That came after he joined the British team from Renault - where he suffered a similarly frustrating time.
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Ricciardo won't be on the grid in 2023 unless something goes wrong with Verstappen or Perez, but the hope is his return to the team where he started his career will spark something in him. Perez is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2024, but there has been a chain of thought in the F1 world that Ricciardo could eventually unseat him.
Speaking to Kayo Sports recently, Croft said he wouldn't be surprised to see Ricciardo back as Red Bull's No.2 driver next season. “Never say never in F1,” he said.
“More surprising things have happened and it would not surprise me to see him and Max line up together in 2024. Personally I think it’s such a shame he is not on the grid. If he comes back a better drive for it then we will all agree on the year off.”
Ricciardo will only attend about eight races this year, and will work primarily in testing and race simulation, as well as commercial activity. But Croft said he thinks the Aussie will find it difficult watching from the sidelines.
“It’s going to be a torturous 2023 for Danny,” Croft added said.“He says he is not done and wants to come back in F1, but where does he fit? On his day he is one of the most dynamic and exciting drivers.
“The biggest key to his participation in F1 rests on Sergio and Max’s relationship, which hasn’t always gone as smoothly. It will be interesting to see how closely Danny works with Sergio - he must be looking over his shoulder. It is Sergio’s seat to lose.”
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Speaking late last year, Ricciardo said the past two seasons had been draining on him both physically and mentally. “I think already last year during the summer break it occurred to me that I was driving very consciously, and it just wasn’t natural anymore and I was just one step behind,” he said.
“That was where I was like, 'okay, I think we’re just trying to do too much'. You only have a certain amount of energy as well - mental energy, physical, whatever. So if you’re using up a bit more mental energy maybe and trying to analyse too much, by the time you’re actually getting into the car you’re already probably a little bit fried. It kind of has a double effect, in a way.
“Did we just overanalyse our bad weekends and then just get caught up in a way where it was like, ‘Okay, we need to start driving like this or setting the car up like that’? For sure at some point we would have got a little too deep and little to lost.
“If we didn’t dive that deep, would I have killed it? I still don’t believe I would’ve killed it in this car. It certainly exposed some of my weaknesses for sure, I have to accept that. But I feel like we probably underperformed just through burying ourselves too deep in it all at times.”
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