Daniel Ricciardo's crucial Red Bull clue amid curious Sergio Perez comments

Momentum could be building for Daniel Ricciardo ahead of a crucial test for Red Bull at Silverstone.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.
Daniel Ricciardo's F1 ambitions have been boosted by pointed comments about Sergio Perez from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. Pictures: Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo's hopes of an F1 return have been given a further boost thanks to a pointed comment from Red Bull's motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko. The Australian has been waiting in the wings at Red Bull after losing his F1 seat to countryman Oscar Piastri late last year.

Marko, who is not stranger to making some eye-catching statements to the media, having been a key figure in the prior Red Bull departures of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, put current driver Sergio Perez under immense pressure after suggesting the Mexican driver had only planned on staying with the team for a certain amount of time. Perez has been in the spotlight in recent rounds, struggling badly in comparison to reigning F1 champion teammate Max Verstappen.

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The comments from Marko comes as Red Bull and Ricciardo prepare to undertake a tyre test at Silverstone, with the Aussie set to be in the driver's seat for a full three days. Not only will Red Bull be evaluating Pirelli's tyres for next season, they'll also be evaluating exactly where Ricciardo is at as a driver.

The F1 world was stunned by Ricciardo's fall from grace with McLaren last year, well outpaced by then teammate Lando Norris in a decidedly down year for the eight time grand prix winner. His struggles were so bad that it prompted Red Bull boss Christian Horner to quip that he was a shadow of the driver who had won seven races before switching teams for the 2019 season.

“We will have Ricciardo in the car for three days after Silverstone during the tyre test, and then you can evaluate where Ricciardo really stands,” Marko said. “[Pérez’s] initial goal was two or three years, that would be more than he planned anyway, and you just have to keep options open for the successor."

While the comments from Marko will be interpreted as a positive sign from Ricciardo's camp, they're no far from a guarantee that he is in line for the second seat alongside Verstappen, should Perez move on. Red Bull could still look internally, promoting Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, while New Zealand driver Liam Lawson continues to wait in the wings.

Tsunoda's Alpha Tauri teammate Nyck de Vries has struggled in his first season, opening the door for a scenario in which Ricciardo pairs with Lawson at the sister team, with Tsunoda moving up to Red Bull. Alternatively, the team could insert Ricciardo as Verstappen's teammate, safe in the knowledge the now two-time world champion has established himself as the lead driver of the pair.

Ricciardo holding out hope for Red Bull F1 comeback

Ricciardo has previously indicated his preference would be to drive for a team capable of winning a championship, however the options at Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari, the three most likely teams to be in such a position are thin on the ground. Nevertheless, a comeback with the team who helped steer him to his first GP win back in 2014 would be a 'fairytale' for Ricciardo.

“This for me would be like the fairytale,” he told ESPN. “Honestly, the fairytale ending [would be] to finish my career here if I could have it all my own way.

“But we’ll see. I’ll probably have to work my way up a little bit, but it’s really nice to be back here.”

Daniel Ricciardo.
Daniel Ricciardo says an F1 comeback with Red Bull would be a 'fairytale' as pressure mounts on Sergio Perez. (Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Horner said earlier this year that he had been left surprised by the driver who came back to the team after stints with Renault (now Alpine) and McLaren. Ricciardo endured well-documented struggles with McLaren in 2022, resulting in the contract that would have seen him through to the end of the 2023 season cut short in favour of bringing in the highly-rated Piastri.

“Well, we brought him back because I felt that, you know, Daniel wasn’t done with Formula 1,” Horner said. “And to see him just whimper out of the sport wouldn’t have been right.

“So I think he fell out of love with Formula 1 over the last couple of years. Certainly, the Daniel that came back at the end of last year wasn’t one that we recognise, you know, the big smile and the big personality.

“I think he’s gradually refinding his love for the sport. He’s finding his passion for driving again. And we’ll see where that — what opportunities that presents for him.

“But I think the first thing for him is to rediscover his mojo, his passion for the sport and his inner dog. So we’re going to give him a test in a few weeks’ time and see — you know, see what he does.”

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