Helmut Marko believes that Daniel Ricciardo is not currently on the "level" of fellow Red Bull Formula 1 drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Ricciardo returned to the team as a test and reserve driver for the 2023 season, with his role also involving simulator work and commercial activities.
In terms of what Ricciardo has achieved so far on the simulator, Marko has delivered a harsh verdict.
Comparing him to Verstappen and Perez, Marko stated that the Australian is "not on their level", in an interview with Formul1.de as quoted by Motorsport-Total.
However, Marko will not reveal exactly how large the gap is between Ricciardo and his teammates, adding: "Those are internal details."
Change in Ricciardo
After leaving Red Bull at the end of 2018, Ricciardo spent two seasons with Renault before his ill-fated spell with McLaren came to a premature end after the 2022 campaign.
Marko feels that the eight-time race winner changed during his time away from the Milton Keynes-based squad.
"[At Renault and McLaren, he lacked] the single-mindedness with which he shone with us," Marko continued.
"Something must have been going on inside him that slowed him down in his competitiveness."
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Praise for doing a 'good job'
Despite this, Marko believes that Ricciardo's decision to step away from racing for the year – having previously voiced his hopes of returning to the F1 grid in 2024 – was a good choice.
"His goal is to get back to a top team," Marko commented.
"Those were his statements. And I think this break from active sport is good for him to find himself and know where he really wants to go."
Marko is also satisifed with Ricciardo's contribution to the team in his new role, explaining: "He's doing a very good job, doing a lot of marketing and PR activities."
Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to ask if Mattia Binotto could really join Alpine, what Pirelli's new tyres are about and the latest on the Red Bull-Ford partnership!