Christian Horner has heaped pressure on Sergio Perez by suggesting Daniel Ricciardo could replace the Spanish driver at Red Bull when his contract expires at the end of 2024. Aussie driver Ricciardo has been brought in to replace Nyck de Vries at Red Bull's junior team Alpha Tauri for the rest of the season, starting in Hungary on Sunday.
The 34-year-old can put himself in pole position for a full-time seat with the world's leading constructor when Perez's contract comes to an end in 2024. Max Verstappen is a two-time world champion and the undisputed lead driver at Red Bull, but Perez's form has slumped in 2024 after a strong start to the season.
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"Daniel firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull (seat)," Horner told the official F1 Nation Hungarian GP preview podcast. "That's his golden objective, and by going to Alpha Tauri he sees that as his best route of stating his case.
"At the moment, there's only something in place until the end of the season. We've loaned him to Alpha Tauri to the end of the year. Our drivers are going to be Max and Checo (Perez) again next year, but it's always good to have talent in reserve."
Horner said Ricciardo impressed him on his return to the track for testing in the wake of the recent British Grand Prix. "What impressed me the most when I went up to have a look at the test was, bearing in mind he hasn't been in a car for seven months, within his third or fourth lap, he was down to a time that was within a second of what our drivers were achieving," the Red Bull boss said.
Daniel Ricciardo speaks ahead of return to F1 grid
Speaking to The Independent, Ricciardo admitted he thought he'd never have a full-time drive in F1 ever again. “After Abu Dhabi last year, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever race again,” he said. “But coming back this year, I removed all ego and status.
“I do think this year will be the best thing that’s ever happened to me and it will boost me now for the rest of my career. It honestly came at the right time… everything happens for a reason.”
Ricciardo drove for Alpha Tauri - then known as Toro Rosso - at the start of his career in 2012 and 2013. He became a household name in Formula One when he then moved up to drive for Red Bull, but has endured frustrating stints at Renault and McLaren over the last five years. He was brutally dumped by McLaren in 2022 before joining Red Bull in a reserve role earlier this year.
The Aussie said his ultimate ambition of race wins and maybe even a world championship are still at the front of his mind. “That is the reason I would come back,” he added. “I still believe I can do it. I feel like the Red Bull Daniel. He is still here.”
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