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Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo's Red Bull dream is still far from reality

Daniel Ricciardo has long talked about his dream of returning to the front of the field with former team Red Bull before he retires from Formula 1. However, his performance in Saudi Arabia showed that he still has a long way to go to be considered.

Ricciardo FP1 Saudi
Analysis
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Before the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season, Daniel Ricciardo predicted that the outspoken critics of the Red Bull/RB collaboration would “calm down a bit” after the opening round in Bahrain when his team's true pace was realised.

Ricciardo's forecast seemed reasonable at the second event in Saudi Arabia, with little to no comments made over the situation that grabbed headlines during the winter.

Unfortunately for Ricciardo, instead the biggest talking point regarding the team in Saudi Arabia was his lacklustre performance.

Qualifying woes

It was a difficult weekend from the get-go as both Ricciardo and teammate Yuki Tsunoda faced questions regarding their end-of-race squabble from the week before in Bahrain.

Both drivers insisted that the matter was behind them and that everything was rosy.

Ensuring that there was no repeat would have been a gratefully accepted prospect from the team's perspective, and on that end, it's true there was no risk of it occurring again in Saudi Arabia - but only because of the large pace deficit that existed between the two RB drivers.

In the second segment of Friday's qualifying session, Ricciardo lapped half a second slower than Tsunoda and found himself eliminated from the session while the Japanese driver progressed to the top 10 shootout, eventually finishing in ninth.

Ricciardo described the gap as a “mystery” which echoed the too-often woes that were present during the 2021 and 2022 campaigns during his struggled-filled tenure at McLaren.

During the Grand Prix, Ricciardo languished towards the back of the field and was part of a train of cars held up by Kevin Magnussen, who was purposefully holding back in order to grant teammate Nico Hulkenberg the chance to score Haas' first points of the year.

Also in the queue was Tsunoda who declared after the race that he struggled to extract pace from the car.

Ricciardo's reaction

It was a largely uninspiring race from RB and Ricciardo. Insult was added to injury as on the penultimate lap, Ricciardo endured a clumsy spin at Turn 2.

The Australian conceded that it was the cause behind the turnabout was “probably a little bit of frustration on my part”, which perfectly summed up the disappointing weekend he took part in.

Despite the downbeat result, Ricciardo was assertive that the team could enjoy stronger results going forward after going in the wrong direction during the weekend in Jeddah.

“The reason I'm staying optimistic is because I know that we had some things wrong,” he explained to media including RacingNews365.

“With a good car and everything sorted, I know we can do a lot better. So a painful three days, but I don't want it to take any confidence out of us.

“It hasn't been the start that we wanted, but it's race two, and Melbourne's next [Ricciardo's home race]. I'll obviously put this weekend behind I think, just push the team hard,” he added.

“Already last night I stayed quite late to try and help everyone find the issues. It's just up to me now to keep on them. I know they want it as bad as I do.”

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The Red Bull question

Ricciardo's presence at RB is supposed to be the experienced voice that the team is keen to employ going forward, rather than taking on a duo of rookies which has been the case in the past.

The 34-year-old proclaimed last season that his ultimate desire is to return to the front-running Red Bull squad to finish his career where he enjoyed success-filled years.

However, a potential reunion with his former squad has never looked further from occurring since his return to the grid with RB [who was called AlphaTauri at the time] last year.

His performances in 2023 were solid at times and leverage was given to him, both for his original return and his second comeback after being sidelined for several races due to a wrist injury.

Now, however, there is little excuse for him as besting Tsunoda is likely a bare minimum target for him to achieve in order to generate any interest from his ex-team.

Ricciardo has a job of convincing us all that his struggles at McLaren were not a once-off and part of a unique situation. But the performance in Saudi Arabia looked all too familiar to the uncomfortable experience he lived through for a duo of seasons.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Perez still a factor

Of course, it's only race two of 24 and drawing a definite conclusion about his current form would be unfair given the access to such a small sample size.

Worry would be permissible if the trend on display in Saudi Arabia continues in the coming races - and if that is the case, Ricciardo can wave goodbye to any chance of a dream Red Bull return.

The situation, however, may not only be down to him. In the opening two rounds, Sergio Perez has done a commendable job for Red Bull and has made a strong case to be retained.

A difficult 2023 campaign for the Mexican driver saw many people write off his chances of being secured beyond the current season - but so far he has checked all the boxes for Red Bull by not giving Max Verstappen a headache while also being ready to take over the lead should the Dutchman run into problems.

Perez's prospects of being kept at the team have received an early boost but it's important to remember that his own struggles came when the RB19 car's development plan was initiated and upgrades were fitted shortly after the start of the year.

If a similar theme occurs for Perez this year, then Ricciardo may have an opportunity to step up at the Milton Keynes-based squad - but only if he proves to Red Bull that he isn't slipping back into lost territory.

Will Daniel Ricciardo be in the Red Bull for 2025? Let us know what you think in the poll below and in the comments!

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