David Croft on Daniel Ricciardo becoming Max Verstappen’s wingman

Sergio Perez is on the chopping block at Red Bull, as he continues to trail behind Max Verstappen by a huge margin.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft has voiced disappointment at the possibility of Daniel Ricciardo serving as a wingman for Max Verstappen, suggesting it negates the Australian’s initial reasons for leaving Red Bull.

Ricciardo, once discontented with his secondary role to Verstappen at Red Bull and with the aftermath of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, sought greener pastures, initially joining Renault and then McLaren for a couple of seasons.

However, having lost some of his former spark, the Honey Badger returned to Red Bull, filling a position on their junior team as a replacement for the beleaguered Nyck de Vries following the Dutchman’s sacking last month.

Ricciardo has openly stated his intent to use his AlphaTauri stint as a stepping stone for promotion to Red Bull, aiming to take over from Sergio Perez in 2025 given the latter has another year remaining on his contract.

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Yet, should he return to the senior team, Ricciardo must face a stark reality: much like Perez, he would once again play second fiddle to Verstappen.

In a recent Sky F1 podcast, Croft, the host, posed a question to ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok, “Isn’t it a paradox that to succeed alongside Verstappen, you must accept being the number two, but to be the best driver, you can never accept that you’re number two?”

Chandhok, a veteran of 11 F1 grands prix, responded, “In Checo’s case, he’s competing against one of the most naturally gifted drivers in F1 history.

“Currently, it’s manageable since Max is single-handedly winning the Constructors’. However, if Mercedes, McLaren, Aston and Ferrari step up and close the gap, which has been the trend in Formula 1, Max may require a wingman who can consistently qualify in the top 10.”

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Chandhok then suggested that this is the context in which Ricciardo’s potential role at Red Bull should be considered, not just for this season, but for the future.

However, would Ricciardo, who left Red Bull to fight for World titles, be comfortable in a secondary role?

Bernie Collins, a former Aston Martin strategist, expressed doubts about Ricciardo’s willingness to assume a support role, given his initial departure from Red Bull was fuelled by not wanting to be the number two driver.

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Reflecting on this, Croft pondered whether Ricciardo could replicate Perez’s mindset and accept a subordinate role, stating, “Wouldn’t that be a real shame? There would have been absolutely no reason to have left Red Bull in the first place.”

Collins concurred, “Exactly. You can’t rewrite history. But that was why he left.”

To which, Croft reiterated, “If he could, he’d never have left in the first place.”