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Ricciardo completes the F1 circle: An inevitable return to Red Bull

Ricciardo completes the F1 circle: An inevitable return to Red Bull

23 November - 14:00
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Red Bull Racing have confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo will return to the team for the 2023 Formula 1 season. The Australian completes a circle and returns to the team where he won seven Grands Prix and achieved multiple podiums. 

Ricciardo will not be driving during the Grand Prix weekends. Instead, Ricciardo will be the test and reserve driver. He will still be visiting most F1 paddocks around the world, but also working on the simulator and drive during test days. He will also be working on the promotional side of the Red Bull Racing business. And that's a role that he's not new to. Ricciardo completes the full circle. 

Early days in Formula 1 

Ricciardo won the British Formula 3 title in 2009 and was able to take a seat in the Red Bull F1 car that season, albeit only during a test designated to young drivers.

In those few days at Jerez, the Honey Badger outpaced all competitors and was hired as Toro Rosso's (and Red Bull Racing's) test and reserve driver for the 2010 season. A task the Australian would undertake that year alongside New Zealander Brendon Hartley, although the latter was dropped from Red Bull's programme later in the season. A job role that once again sounds familiar. 

As Toro Rosso's only remaining test driver, Ricciardo had been given every opportunity to prove himself. Every time he gets behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso car, he managed to set a better time than the team's more experienced drivers. Those results didn’t go unrewarded: Ricciardo got a race seat at HRT in the 2011 Formula 1 season, albeit for a few races.

Ricciardo made his debut at the British Grand Prix. Ricciardo recorded the slowest time in qualifying and lost out to his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi by half a second. Whilst he did gain five places during the Grand Prix at Silverstone, Ricciardo was the last of the finishers as a heap of reliability problems affected other drivers. By the next race in Germany, Ricciardo had managed to close the gap to his teammate in qualifying as he became accustomed to the car. He finished ahead of Karun Chandhok in the race. Next time out, Ricciardo further impressed by beating Liuzzi in the Grand Prix. Over their 10-race partnership, Ricciardo managed to equal Liuzzi in the qualifying duels. Come race day, Ricciardo finished 6-3 ahead. 

Moving up the ranks

Gaining that experience proved crucial, as he took his place in the Toro Rosso car a year later. After weighing up all the options, Helmut Marko decided to choose the young Ricciardo alongside Jean-Eric Vergne. In the opening race of that season (also Ricciardo's home race) the Honey Badger scored his first championship points. With several points finishes in his debut year, Ricciardo was assured of another year in Formula 1.

The following year, his unlucky streak in the Australian Grand Prix started. An exhaust issue marked the end of the race for Ricciardo, but he again had a positive season. Ricciardo scored points on six occasions, with a season-high grid spot of 5th place in the 2013 British Grand Prix. It was clear to Marko and Horner that Ricciardo had something special. 

With the departure of Mark Webber from Red Bull Racing at the end of 2013, it was up to Vergne and Ricciardo to show who was the best candidate to take the spot next to Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo made the most of the opportunity and was allowed to move up, while Vergne fell into a negative spiral from then on.

In 2014, Ricciardo stood on the top step of the podium for the first time. Remarkably, this happened in the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix where Ricciardo started in sixth place. He dropped down to seventh place but fought his way back to get into the podium places. With just five laps to go, Ricciardo sat in third place but he didn't give up and overtook Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg to take the victory. Later in the season, he also took the win in Hungary, putting his teammate (and four-time world champion) Sebastian Vettel in his shadow. At the end of the season, Vettel left for Ferrari and Red Bull junior Daniil Kvyat came to sit alongside Ricciardo.

Challenge against Verstappen

After four races in 2016, changes were made: Daniil Kvyat was replaced by Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen and the Dutchman would take his seat in the RB12 as early as Barcelona. A race that the then 18-year-old young talent would win immediately, leaving Daniel Ricciardo forced to showcase his talent. Sebastian Vettel was easily beaten, as was Kvyat. Verstappen was cut from a different cloth and managed to get extremely close to his teammate in his first season. The difference was just 52 points at the end of the season, despite Verstappen driving four races for Toro Rosso.

In 2017, Ricciardo and Verstappen were evenly matched, but the RB13 proved anything but reliable. In the first half of the season, it was Verstappen who received a string of DNFs behind his name; after the summer break, the bad luck came to sit on Ricciardo's shoulder. Despite all the misery, Ricciardo still managed to win in Baku and finished on the podium a total of eight times.

Motivation then dropped in the coming seasons. Red Bull's reliability with the Renault engine deteriorated. Combined with Ricciardo's crash with Verstappen in Baku, Ricciardo felt like he needed a fresh start for the 2019 season.  

It didn’t turn out to be a masterstroke. Renault still started reasonably positively as 'best of the rest', but soon Renault's big talk turned out not to be true. Even the customer team McLaren were better and Ricciardo seems to have chosen the wrong option.

After fifth place in the constructors in 2019, 2020 doesn't seem to start much better for Ricciardo. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg has also been replaced by Esteban Ocon and the man from Perth had to work hard on his own. In the second half of the season, he succeeded more often and was rewarded with two podiums. This demonstrated Ricciardo still had the fight.

Those podiums did him good and he finished a neat fifth in the battle for the world title. However, the decision to drive for McLaren in 2021 was long since been made, and Ricciardo joined the young Lando Norris at the team from Woking. McLaren also switched to Mercedes engines. But despite huge efforts from McLaren and Ricciardo, things just didn't work out for Ricciardo. He got a race win, but overall he couldn't get to grips with the car and was constantly beaten by Norris. In the end, McLaren cut their ties with Ricciardo early giving him chance to return to Red Bull.  

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