Ricciardo to AlphaTauri makes no sense

Daniel Ricciardo racing for Scuderia AlphaTauri seems unlikely

Daniel Ricciardo racing for Scuderia AlphaTauri seems unlikely

The chances of Daniel Ricciardo returning to Formula 1 with Scuderia AlphaTauri before the end of the 2023 season are slim to none.

Recently, the popular Australian had a seat fitting with the Faenza-based operation.

It has sparked rumours of a potential promotion from third driver to race driver in place of Nyck de Vries.

The reality is it was nothing more than a pragmatic thing to do given his position on the bench at Milton Keynes.

In the coming weeks, Ricciardo will perform tyre testing for Red Bull at Silverstone and some demonstration runs in the United States.

However, there will be no race-weekend outings as he does not meet the criteria of a ‘young’ driver – those responsibilities will likely fall to Liam Lawson.

So, for that matter, would any opportunity at Scuderia AlphaTauri if the squad looked to replace de Vries.

The Dutchman has had a tough run in the opening races, contrasting his brilliant performance at last year’s Italian Grand Prix.

He is one of only two drivers yet to score points this season, the other being Williams’ Logan Sargeant.

Scuderia AlphaTauri as a team has not helped his cause with a car that is comparatively uncompetitive at a time when there is little between the fifth and 10th best teams in F1.

Small weaknesses are magnified.

De Vries was 14th in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, was taken out by Sargeant late in the Australian Grand Prix, crashed in Azerbaijan, and trailed Lando Norris in Miami to 18th.

In those opening five races, team-mate Yuki Tsunoda has scored two points and is widely regarded to be performing well.

The difference between a good job and underperforming can therefore be empirically measured.

“We have spoken to De Vries and he is of the same opinion as we are: He has to improve,” Red Bull motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Mako, told F1-Insider.com.

“The gap to team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, who is doing a great job, is too big.

“To use footballer’s language: Nick got the yellow card, but not the red one yet. If he improves, a change of driver will not be an issue.

“If the worst came to the worst, we would fall back on our pool of young talent.

“We are talking specifically about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa.”

Tsunoda offers an interesting comparison as he arrived in Formula 1 with tremendous promise.

He then failed to deliver on that.

Such was his struggle that Red Bull moved him from England to Italy mid-season and instigated a strict regime for physical training and preparation with the team.

Despite his early troubles, Red Bull and Scuderia AlphaTauri stuck with him and turned his fortunes around.

De Vries is just five races in. He’s generally more experienced in motorsport but is still a rookie in F1 terms.

Talk of his imminent replacement seems premature.

Of course, Red Bull isn’t known for its patience, but it has a proven track record of giving its young drivers a fair chance.

Tsunoda had that, and so too did Brendon Hartley and others. De Vries has not.

The Ricciardo link with Scuderia AlphaTauri, therefore, seems driven more by the desire of those around F1 to want him back in the sport than anything else.

The Italian team’s express purpose is to develop young drivers – the only real deviation from that is Daniil Kvyat, who returned when Red Bull had no other suitable juniors to promote.

It is not currently in that position given Lawson is sitting on the sidelines, waiting and hoping for his turn.

The New Zealander is racing in Super Formula in Japan alongside his reserve driver duties with Red Bull.

During Friday practice sessions last year, he drove for both the senior team and Scuderia AlphaTauri and is on hand at most races this year.

Lawson is the logical fit should de Vries be replaced in the short term – even if they made the switch at the end of the year.

A Ricciardo return (he drove for Scuderia AlphaTauri when it was known as Toro Rosso) is an appealing thought but one propelled by wishful thinking, at least at this point.

The 33-year-old has repeatedly said he would not return to F1 simply for the sake of it.

And what does stepping into the Scuderia AlphaTauri mid-season do?

It would take time to acclimate, and you’d expect Tsunoda to outperform him comprehensively during that period.

He’d be racing towards the back of the pack, where he can achieve nothing.

Besides being on the grid, what would it lead to for 2024? What does it offer him that wouldn’t otherwise be on the table?

There seems little to no reason for Ricciardo to accept the drive, should it even be offered.

His seat fitting should therefore be seen for what it is; pragmatic preparation for a worst-case scenario – and perhaps an opportunity to get an experienced driver in the Scuderia AlphaTauri during a Pirelli tyre test later in the year.

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