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Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo or Tsunoda will end the other's F1 career

It's a fascinating line-up between the veteran and the youngster at AlphaTauri for the rest of 2023.

Tsunoda Ricciardo
Analysis
To news overview © FIA Pool Image for Editorial Use

Come the end of 2023, the Formula 1 career of Daniel Ricciardo or Yuki Tsunoda will be effectively over.

That is the stark reality facing the new AlphaTauri teammates as they do battle over the 12 Grands Prix that will make or break their respective futures.

For one, it is an effective free hit as he currently has nothing to lose and everything to gain while the other has everything to lose and nothing to gain.

In other words, Ricciardo will end Tsunoda's career in Grand Prix racing or vice versa.

It might not get the attention on the world feed as the slowest car on the grid rarely features unless it is being lapped by the leader or there is some mistake, but the battle between Ricciardo and Tsunoda is a fascinating plot to follow as F1 races towards Abu Dhabi.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Ricciardo vs Tsunoda

Let's first deal with Ricciardo and the challenging facing him.

Here is a driver who is desperate to get back into the Red Bull seat he should never have left when he jumped the good ship Milton Keynes to take up residency at Enstone and Renault for 2019.

Having previously ruled out a switch to the midfield after losing his McLaren seat in 2022, Ricciardo realised he needed to step in and replace the underfire Nyck de Vries to keep Liam Lawson - the latest cab off the Red Bull junior rank firmly in his place and out of the seat alongside Tsunoda.

In doing so, he, and Helmut Marko, get to light a fire under Sergio Perez's backside to start picking performances up and not have anymore failures in Qualifying and start getting through to Q3 after an astonishing run of five straight races of not achieving that most basic of goals for a healthy Red Bull.

Ricciardo must simply destroy Tsunoda.

He must out-perform the Japanese racer to such an extent that it is clear he is ready to make a return to the white hot environment of the front of Grand Prix racing while showing Tsunoda is not at such a level should he ever be considered for promotion.

That is going to be difficult in a car which has struggled with corner entry and through the mid-corner stage throughout the 2023 season - and was a major contributor to the horrors Ricciardo endured at McLaren.

Tsunoda has at least had a year-and-a-half to get used to how the ground-effects era AlphaTauri behaves and how to extract somewhere near the best out of it.

While he has just two points finishes in 2023, Tsunoda also has a trio of 11th places as he has taken a step forward this season after the departure of Pierre Gasly to Alpine.

He will not be an easy nut for Ricciardo to crack, but the Australian must find a way. For the eight-time Grand Prix winner, if he cannot despatch Tsunoda convincingly, he can wave goodbye to any hopes of partnering Max Verstappen again.

Tsunoda scalp?

As for Tsunoda, his prize is showing he can stamp his authority on a team, be the team leader and beat a vastly more experienced teammate.

But it depends what Ricciardo shows up from the Hungarian Grand Prix.

If it is the gloomy, lost Ricciardo that was seen throughout the latter half of 2022, then Tsunoda must show no mercy and be ruthless and cold in the same mould as all the greats, Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton included.

If the swashbuckling Ricciardo of his 2014-16 prime arrives, then if Tsunoda can be slightly ahead or showing a clean pair of heels, his stock will rise considerably and show Marko and Red Bull that Ricciardo is not who needs to replace Perez.

It will show that Tsunoda is a viable candidate and another team might look at picking him up if his F1 career goes into a holding pattern at AlphaTauri in the same way Gasly's did should promotion to the senior team be denied for whatever reason.

It would also bring a final stop to Ricciardo's career as his CV would dictate comfortably dismissing the best Tsunoda can throw at him.

No-one else is going to touch Ricciardo with a bargepole if he ends up being defeated by Tsunoda by whatever margin.

Should Ricciardo come out on top, Tsunoda's F1 career will eventually fizzle out if he is not happy to accept staying at AlphaTauri and bouncing around the midfield.

Although the car might not be there for headline results, the intra-team battle down at AlphaTauri is certainly something to keep an eye on. Someone will be out by the end of the season.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

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