2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg fears that Daniel Ricciardo’s hand injury could end his chances of replacing Sergio Perez next season and result in the fan favourite remaining at AlphaTauri.
Ricciardo hasn’t been in the cockpit of his AT04 since crashing in Free Practice 2 at the Dutch Grand Prix, where he fractured a metacarpal in his left hand.
The 34-year-old had to put his car into a barrier on the outside of Turn 3 to avoid hitting Oscar Piastri, who’s crashed ahead of him.
Due to how quickly it all unfolded, Ricciardo didn’t have time to take his hands off the steering wheel, which resulted in the steering wheel smashing into his hand.
He quickly flew to Barcelona for surgery, where it was discovered that his fracture had complications.
Whilst the surgery was a success, his return date remains uncertain, with it now looking like the Qatar Grand Prix in October will be when he’s seen next.
Since Free Practice 3 at Zandvoort, Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson has replaced the Aussie and will do so again this weekend at the Singapore Grand Prix and presumably at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Given that Ricciardo only returned at the Hungarian Grand Prix, his accident couldn’t have come at a worse time.
He was building in confidence and was actually looking like a real option for Red Bull next season, should Perez’s contract not be honoured.
Rosberg believes the injury could’ve ended Ricciardo’s hopes of racing for Red Bull in 2024 and will likely result in the Aussie competing for AlphaTauri again for a full campaign.
“How unlucky has that been for Daniel, though? It’s incredible,” Rosberg said on the Sky F1 podcast.
“He gets this chance to come back and he breaks his hand in a freak accident, so unlucky.
“The latest from Christian Horner is that Danny will be back in Qatar. So he still misses a couple of races and then he’ll be able to come back because it’s apparently quite a decent break of the hand he’s had.
“It makes it difficult but Daniel has such a value to Red Bull, he’s so liked by Red Bull that they’ll definitely be patient in giving him a definite clear chance.
“But I think this break could actually be the difference between him getting a shot at replacing Perez next year, and having another year in AlphaTauri.
“I think the hand break could have the effect of putting him into one more year at AlphaTauri.”