Ex-Formula 1 driver Christijan Albers believes Red Bull team principal is “clearly trying” to get Daniel Ricciardo back alongside Max Verstappen, despite Sergio Perez’s contract.
Perez’s future was a huge talking point during the recently completed season, as his poor mid-campaign performances raised doubts over if he could support the team going forwards.
It led to suggestions that Red Bull would opt to not respect the Mexican driver’s contract for 2024 and instead get Ricciardo back into the team.
This hasn’t happened, as Red Bull have stressed that Perez’s deal will be honoured; however, the door hasn’t been completely closed on Ricciardo.
It was confirmed at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this year that Ricciardo had been given a full-time seat at AlphaTauri for 2024, as the team were impressed with how he’d done since replacing Nyck de Vries.
As a result of Ricciardo being retained alongside Yuki Tsunoda, Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson has been left on the bench for another season.
The whole situation does appear slightly odd, given that AlphaTauri are viewed as Red Bull’s junior team, yet it’s them who’ll be fielding the oldest driver.
At 34 years old, Ricciardo is older than both Verstappen and Perez and is certainly not a junior driver, whilst at 21 years old, Lawson very much is.
Albers believes AlphaTauri giving Ricciardo a full-time deal is part of Horner’s plan to get the Australian driver back into Red Bull to replace Perez, something which some have suggested could happen mid-season if Checo struggles.
This would then make sense as to why Lawson has been kept as reserve driver, given that Ricciardo would then leave a space open at AlphaTauri.
Albers doesn’t think Perez would accept a demotion to AlphaTauri if replaced by Ricciardo, as his “ego is too big”.
“I have the feeling that Horner is clearly trying to get Ricciardo next to Max (Verstappen) again,” Albers told RTL GP Magazine, “even though (Sergio) Perez has a watertight contract.
“That’s why they’re keeping (Liam) Lawson in the background, because Perez’s ego is too big to go back to Alpha Tauri.”