“I don’t what you did to him,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner remarked last year to his opposite number at McLaren, Zak Brown.

He was talking about Daniel Ricciardo, who had returned to the Red Bull fold after Brown cut short his three-year deal to drive for McLaren one season early. Horner was commenting on Ricciardo looking physically fitter than he had the previous season, but also had plenty to say about how the former Red Bull junior’s driving appeared to have deteriorated since leaving the team at the end of 2018.

“The problem is when you drive a car that obviously has its limitations, you adapt and you try and adjust to extract the maximum out of that car,” said Horner. “It was clear when he came back, that he picked up some habits that… we didn’t recognise as the Daniel that that had left us two or three years earlier.”

A few months later Red Bull put Ricciardo in one of their cars for a tyre test. The Netflix cameras were on hand to capture the redemptive moment for the Drive to Survive star and Red Bull duly declared his run a success. Nyck de Vries, not yet halfway through his rookie season at Red Bull’s second team AlphaTauri, was shown the door to make way for Ricciardo’s comeback to an F1 race seat.

After being knocked off his stride by a wrist injury which temporarily put him back on the sidelines, Ricciardo’s performance in the Mexican Grand Prix soon after his return seemed to vindicate Red Bull’s faith in him. He put his AT04 fourth on the grid, ahead of Sergio Perez, whose poor campaign last year long marked him out as a target for replacement. Ricciardo finished seventh and was on course for better before a mid-race red flag.

With AlphaTauri transforming into RB this year, and declaring they would use Red Bull’s dominant design as a reference for this year’s car, expectations were high for Ricciardo. At the team’s launch he targeted top five finishes in the first half of the season.

But three races in he is yet to score a point. Yuki Tsunoda delivered the first score for the renamed RB team last weekend, while Ricciardo failed to reach Q2.

Ricciardo, who has won eight grands prix and started well over 200, was predicted by many to spend 2024 putting Tsunoda in the shade while staking his claim to a return to Red Bull next year. Instead rumours have already begun circulating that he may not see out the season.

Although recent claims RB might replace him with his Ricciardo substitute Liam Lawson as early as the Miami Grand Prix appear to be wide of the mark, Red Bull have a track record of being unafraid to cut their losses with a driver. De Vries wasn’t the first to be shown the door mid-season: In 2016 Red Bull ejected Ricciardo’s then-team mate Daniil Kvyat just four races into the season.

Perhaps Ricciardo is just one, confidence-inspiring RB upgrade away from proving he’s not lost his touch. Or perhaps Red Bull are discovering why McLaren showed him the door to begin with. How long should his team be prepared to wait to find out?

I say

What happened to Ricciardo during his temporary, self-imposed exile from Red Bull is one of the most curious examples of a driver losing their way in recent years. His jovial, made-for-Netflix nature makes him an easy target for critics when he’s not performing, but you only have to look back at some of his performances at the closing end of last season to see he can still perform.

But only turning up occasionally is not good enough at this level, particularly give Ricciardo’s clear desire to return to the seat alongside Verstappen he relinquished at the end of 2018.

Today’s F1 seasons are so long that dropping a driver before the year is over is no longer the shock it once seemed. Red Bull have the luxury of a second F1 team precisely so they can test new talent for the main squad. Ricciardo doesn’t look like hitting that brief any time soon.

With Lawson kicking his heels on the sidelines, if Ricciardo hasn’t shown Red Bull something by the summer break it would be hard to argue against them giving their new junior driver the seat. But that would almost certainly mean an end to Ricciardo’s career as an F1 driver, which would be a sad thing to see.

You say

How long should Red Bull give Ricciardo at RB before he either raises his game or they give someone else a chance to show what they can do? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

How long should Red Bull keep Ricciardo in RB?

  • No opinion (4%)
  • Beyond the end of the year (1%)
  • Until the end of the year (18%)
  • Until the summer break (round 14) (29%)
  • Until the British Grand Prix (round 12) (15%)
  • Until the Miami Grand Prix (round six) (18%)
  • Replace him now (15%)

Total Voters: 95

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