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Liam Lawson

The Red Bull junior thwarting Ricciardo's F1 comeback

Daniel Ricciardo may not find space in the Red Bull stable for a return to the F1 grid with one junior driver impressing with his efforts in Japan.

Ricciardo Miami
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Daniel Ricciardo's hopes of rejoining the Formula 1 grid may have been slim regardless of other drivers' performances but fans of the Australian would have looked at Nyck de Vries' situation at AlphaTauri as a potential way back.

Dutchman de Vries has struggled to assert himself alongside Yuki Tsunoda with a number of incidents plaguing the opening five races of his rookie campaign.

Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko has already cooled suggestions Ricciardo would return for AlphaTauri in place of de Vries should the 2020/21 Formula E champion fail to improve, instead pointing to juniors Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa.

But with F1 being so lucrative, neither would be thrown into the deep end without good reason leaving Ricciardo as an option. Lawson, in particular, is proving a barrier in the eight-time Grand Prix winner's path back to the sport.

Lawson finished third in the F2 standings last season with four wins to his name as he underlined his potential as part of the Red Bull Junior Team.

But he left the European racing scene for this campaign with a foray into the Japanese Super Formula, making a stunning start.

His victory at Autopolis this weekend was his second in the opening four races of the season and with only five events to run, Lawson sits atop the standings by four points and his path follows that of Pierre Gasly in 2017 which saw the Frenchman earn his way into a race seat with what was then Toro Rosso.

It would be hard to deny Lawson a step into F1 should this form continue, especially given the New Zealander completed a number of rookie FP1 runs last season.

Will Ricciardo return?

With Lawson likely to be drafted into the AlphaTauri either in place of de Vries this season or next, Ricciardo's in-house F1 prospects now look bleak.

The Australian is almost certain to be forced to look elsewhere but, if that is the case, what will have changed from last season? There is unlikely to be a seat high up the grid available and Ricciardo's nature will surely take him away from a seat further down the grid.

Time will ultimately tell what the future holds for Ricciardo, but Lawson deserves credit for taking the future out of the Australian's hands.

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