Daniel Ricciardo F1 Comeback Confirmed: Australian to Replace Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri
After a prolonged absence, Daniel Ricciardo is set to return to Formula One once more. The Australian is poised to take over from struggling AlphaTauri team driver Nyck de Vries, with his first start in new livery expected to come as early as this month at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Related: The New Daniel Ricciardo Has Arrived
News of the grid shake-up follows months of speculation surrounding the 34-year-old West Australian’s F1 future. In May, Ricciardo was spotted on a trip to AlphaTauri’s team factory in Italy for a seat fitting. That move sparked rumours that the ‘Honey Badger’ was in the box seat to replace the underperforming de Vries, who has yet to poll a single point in his maiden season.
The rumours were initially shot down by the team, with many quick to point out Ricciardo’s contract as Red Bull reserve driver also sees him pull double duty for AlphaTauri. At the time, it was seen merely as protocol, but on Wednesday, confirmation that Ricciardo was headed back to the grid was finally handed down.
“I am stoked to be back on track with the Red Bull family!” Ricciardo said following the announcement.
After testing at Silverstone for Red Bull, Ricciardo was officially given the green light to take the seat for the remainder of the 2023 season by AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost
“I’m very pleased to welcome Daniel back into the team,” Tost said. “There’s no doubt about his driving skills, and he already knows many of us, so his integration will be easy and straightforward. The team will also profit a lot from his experience, as he is an eight-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner.”
By all accounts, the Silverstone tyre testing was Ricciardo’s first on-track foray behind the wheel of an F1 car since his highly publicised split from McLaren last year. According to Red Bull principal Christian Horner, the Aussie’s work behind the simulator had earned him the right the prove his worth, which he did on Wednesday.
“It is great to see Daniel hasn’t lost any form while away from racing and that the strides he has been making in Sim sessions translate on track,” Horner said. “His times during the tyre test were extremely competitive. It was a very impressive drive and we are excited to see what the rest of the season brings for Daniel on loan at Scuderia AlphaTauri.”
For Ricciardo, the journey back to the F1 ranks hasn’t been easy. After being dumped by McLaren amid a wave of politics and swirling rumours in favour of Aussie young gun Oscar Piastri, Ricciardo was relegated to the driver back bench, with Horner throwing the 2020 Monza GP champion a lifeline.
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A fan favourite, Ricciardo’s toothy grin was a notable absence from the F1 grid, however, his guidance behind the scenes was deemed invaluable by Red Bull. Now, after an extended sit on the sidelines, the Honey Badger is back but it comes at the expense of a 28-year-old rookie.
Axed AlphaTauri driver de Vries leaves the seat after just 10 races in the big time. The underwhelming start to the season saw him repeatedly put under pressure, both by team leads and the wider F1 community. Despite this, several insiders have suggested the Dutchman wasn’t given a fair shot at the top league.
Perhaps most interesting of all, however, was the appointment of Ricciardo over academy project Liam Lawson. The home-grown junior has been with Red Bull since he was 17 and is currently competing for the Japanese Super Formula title. As Sky Sports commentator Alex Jacques pointed out, opting for a 34-year-old driver who has been out of the league for over a year over your own development project does raise some interesting questions.
“Very pleased to see Danny Ric back on the grid but it really is another classic of the Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri second seat genre,” Jacques wrote. “De Vries sacked 10 races in. Lawson passed over having been with the academy since he was 17. New driver is 34 and left the team a decade ago.”
The new driver lineup is effective immediately, with de Vries to hand the seat to Ricciardo ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 23. How the Australian will respond is still unknown, but one thing is for certain, the AlphaTauri driver drama is far from over.