Christian Horner has effectively confirmed Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull’s third driver for 2023 despite some backtracking from Helmut Marko.
The 79-year-old Red Bull adviser said during an interview after FP1 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that Ricciardo would take a supporting role to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez next season after his departure from McLaren.
However, clearly feeling he had jumped the gun with the announcement as nothing had been officially signed, Marko later caveated the news by adding the word “if” to Ricciardo’s expected to return to the team for which he raced between 2014 and 2018.
At a press conference on Saturday, Red Bull team principal Horner suggested the deal was as good as done – and indicated Ricciardo would be involved next year as a development driver and also a potential substitute along with Liam Lawson, who is heading to the Super Formula series in Japan.
“We haven’t signed it yet but Helmut in his enthusiasm announced it,” Horner told media including PlanetF1 at Yas Marina.
“So I guess that means Daniel will be joining us next year unless of course he chooses not to sign it!
“Daniel’s a big character. It’s been disappointing to see his performance this year, I think he would have wanted a lot more out of the season, but he’s still one of biggest names and characters in Formula 1.
“He obviously has a history with being a Red Bull junior.
“Just with the demands on race drivers these days, from a marketing perspective alone we are a very active team and we do very many show runs and events, and to have a driver of Daniel’s profile and history with the team within in the group is only an asset for us.
“It will mean he keeps in touch with Formula 1 and we’ll obviously be using him on the simulator as well and he’ll be attending some events.
“If, of course, he does sign a contract…but I’m sure that will become clear in the event of him signing a contract.”
However, Horner ruled out any prospect of Ricciardo returning to race for Red Bull again on a full-time basis, despite his seven wins for the team.
“No. Daniel’s contract is very specific, for a very specific reason,” said Horner.
“We have a contract with Checo [Perez] for the next two years. What the partnership of Max and Checo has produced has been phenomenal for us.
“Five one-two finishes so far this year, the Constructors’ Championship that we hadn’t won for five years, is a phenomenal achievement, and obviously the combination of both drivers’ points contributions.
“The two drivers have a good relationship, they have raced well for the team and we’ve no reason to see that being any different tomorrow or for the duration of their contractual commitment to the team thereafter.
“To Checo, we made that commitment for two years earlier in the year and he made a good step this year. I think he felt more comfortable in the team at the beginning of the year after that first year joining during a COVID period.”
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