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Analysis | Has Daniel Ricciardo already proved himself for Red Bull?

14 November at 18:00
  • Ludo van Denderen

Franz Tost, the outgoing AlphaTauri team boss, will have been quietly reckoning with a farewell at a low point. It was only a few weeks ago that his Italian team was last in the constructors' championship. Meanwhile, even seventh place in the title race beckons. What suddenly makes the difference? Daniel Ricciardo is at least a factor in AlphaTauri's resurgence.

Just some figures: in the first 14 Grand Prix weekends, AlphaTauri managed to take points just three times, all thanks to Yuki Tsunoda. Then there was the sweeping update during the race in Singapore, and it's fair to say it didn't miss its effect. In Austin, Mexico as well as in Brazil, AlphaTauri managed to grab points, bringing its total to 21 now - seven less than Williams.

AlphaTauri is getting things better and better

Fair's fair: the car Tsunoda and then Nyck de Vries drove around in the first half of the season was hardly worthy of Formula 1. In that respect, Daniel Ricciardo has a bit more 'luck'. The Australian took over the cockpit from the Dutchman, and drove creditable races in Hungary and Belgium, only to be injured on his hand. Since his comeback, Ricciardo has had access to a car that can be competitive and thus can prove he has not lost his qualities.

For now, the absolute highlight of the season for AlphaTauri was Ricciardo's fourth place during qualifying in Mexico. For the first time in a very long time, the Italian team was a factor, thanks in part to a clever session by Ricciardo. Of course, in Q1 and Q2 he benefited from a slipstream from teammate Tsunoda, in Q3 the Australian did it - partly on experience - all by himself.

A day later, Ricciardo did drop back slightly, but his seventh place in the final standings was more than fine. Points were lacking a week later in Sao Paulo, but that was mainly due to huge bad luck. The sprint race only needed to be a lap longer, or Ricciardo would have had a serious chance to pass Carlos Sainz. A day later, his Grand Prix was over before it had even started properly.

Ricciardo almost as fast as Verstappen

Ricciardo was unlucky that a wheel ended up on top of his AlphaTauri, requiring the complete rear wing to be replaced. With a lap behind, Ricciardo was able to connect after the restart. During the first stint, Ricciardo was among the fastest drivers on the track on soft tyres. He was only three or four-tenths slower per lap than leader Max Verstappen. On mediums, Ricciardo was faster than Mercedes, Alpine and Sainz's Ferrari.

How strong a race Ricciardo drove may not have been seen by the outside world. Christian Horner and Helmut Marko, on the other hand, will surely have had sight of the data and concluded that Ricciardo is slowly regaining himself. After all, remember: Ricciardo is coming back from a long time on the sidelines and then a nasty injury. And yet he is already doing what he is doing.

Next season, a fully fit Ricciardo is going to be of great value to AlphaTauri - or whatever the team will be called; With his speed, but also certainly because of his technical knowledge. It is surely no coincidence that AlphaTauri got better since Ricciardo has been on board.

Ricciardo on the right track for Red Bull

A reborn Daniel Ricciardo is also good news for Red Bull Racing. Sergio Perez has already been confirmed for 2024. Indeed there is still more to come before Ricciardo has finally proven himself. But he is already well on his way. A Ricciardo in top form is certainly the ideal candidate to relieve the Mexican from '25.