Ex-Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok has questioned how Red Bull will go about evaluating the performance of Daniel Ricciardo in 2023, with the Austrians having brought the fan favourite back to the team as a development driver.
Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull is an intriguing one, with the 33-year-old set to be tasked with mainly simulator and marketing work during his year back at the Milton Keynes-based team.
He will also briefly fill in as reserve driver, though, when Red Bull Junior driver Liam Lawson is busy competing in Super Formula in Japan.
2023 is very much a year of rediscovery for Ricciardo, with the Aussie having wanted a season to re-find his passion for Formula 1, following a challenging couple of seasons at McLaren.
He as expressed his intent on returning to the F1 grid next year, though, with Chandhok believing that the eight-time GP winner could “fight” Sergio Pérez for the second Red Bull seat in 2024.
“I’m waiting to see how it plays out because the last time Daniel drove a Red Bull was in 2018, and Formula 1 cars have changed a lot,” Chandhok told Sky Sports F1.
“It’s like a different category now. I think Max [Verstappen] has changed a lot, [given] the trajectory he’s been on. He’s a 25-year-old whose confidence is growing.
“I think Daniel versus Checo is an interesting fight for the ’24 seat. How do they evaluate Daniel?
“That’s what I’m interested to see because, yeah, they can put them in the [simulator], but it’s not the same as driving the old car.
“So, will they give him a go in a test somewhere? That’s what I’d like to see, is how do they genuinely evaluate Daniel Ricciardo today?”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner and advisor Dr Helmut Marko have both denied that Ricciardo was brought back into the team to put pressure on the Mexican, who is contracted until the end of 2024.
Should Red Bull opt to fire Checo before the end of 2024, though, then Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft believes Red Bull need a driver considerably younger than Ricciardo to replace him, given that Max Verstappen has also mentioned that he could retire in 2028.
“They’re both capable of winning races but, to me, they win races in very different ways. I hate to say this – I think Daniel’s a terrific bloke, but he is not the future for Red Bull, not by any stretch of the imagination, mainly because of age,” Croft explained.
“When Max spoke at the end of the season and talked about potentially stopping at the age of 31, that’s a big revelation to me.
“He’s already thinking about the time he stops racing. If he’s thinking that, then Red Bull should be thinking it too. I’d be trying to identify somebody else to come in.”