Helmut Marko hands Daniel Ricciardo fatal blow amid Max Verstappen illness

Daniel Ricciardo hasn't attended either of the two completed races so far this season, with his first appearance set to be at next weekend's Australian GP.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has confirmed that junior driver Liam Lawson will be used should either Sergio Pérez or Max Verstappen ever be unavailable, meaning Daniel Ricciardo is unlikely to feature at all this season.

Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull as a development driver for 2023 raised a lot of eyebrows, with many viewing it as a step backwards in the Aussie’s career.

The move was ultimately completed due to the former McLaren driver wanting to spend his one-year sabbatical in a familiar environment, with Red Bull having been keen to use Ricciardo in various marketing campaigns.

What his actual role is, though, is a continued question, with AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost having admitted that Ricciardo wouldn’t be used should either of his drivers be unable to compete.

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“Theoretically we could,” Tost said.

“But I would prefer not to see it happen. There are young drivers like (Liam) Lawson, like Dennis Hauger. I think we would focus mainly on young drivers.”

Lawson is seemingly Red Bull’s official reserve driver, at least when he’s not competing in Super Formula.

Red Bull have put Lawson in the Japanese single-seater championship this season due to it being a closer comparison to F1 than Formula 2, highlighting just how important the young driver is to Red Bull’s F1 future.

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“Super Formula is closer to F1 than Formula 2,” Marko said, “and people are aware of that fact.”

The topic over who is Red Bull’s actual reserve driver was brought up ahead of last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen’s participation having initially been in doubt following a stomach bug.

“At the beginning of the week he had a relatively high fever and it was unclear whether he would be fit,” Marko told Sky Deutschland.

“It got better from day to day but he was sweating to a degree that he normally doesn’t.

“He certainly wasn’t 100 percent fit.”

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Verstappen, of course, was okay to compete come Friday, with the Dutchman having been granted permission to miss his Thursday media duties so that he could have an extra day to get over his illness.

Marko was still asked, though, who would’ve replaced Verstappen had he been unfit.

“Liam Lawson, our Formula 2 driver and our Super Formula man in Japan, who was here,” revealed Marko.