Is Daniel Ricciardo set to end Nyck de Vries nightmare and sign with AlphaTauri after discreet factory visit in Italy?

Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo could be set to make a full-time racing return and even be his new team’s first driver if internet rumours are anything to go by.

The Formula 1 subreddit was rife with speculation that the Honey Badger could be in line for a role at AlphaTauri next season, after the driver was spotted at the team’s headquarters in Italy.

Ricciardo had travelled to the AlphaTauri team’s factory for a seat fitting last week, and it appears to have convinced fans that he will soon replace rookie Nyck de Vries.

While this news has not been validated by either party, it is no secret that Ricciardo is keen to return to racing after spending this season on the sidelines following a disappointing tenure with McLaren.

The Australian driver was eventually sacked by the Woking-based outfit on the back of two underwhelming seasons, with Oscar Piastri being handed a chance to fill his seat.

Why isn’t Ricciardo racing full-time this season?

Daniel Ricciardo. Credit:
Daniel Ricciardo. Credit:

Ricciardo did agree that mental fatigue played its part and at the time, spoke about his desire to take a break from full-time racing to recharge his batteries.

“For me, the ability to contribute to and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, whilst also giving me some time to recharge and refocus,” Ricciardo had said.

“I can’t wait to be with the team and support them with simulator work, testing sessions and commercial activities. Let’s go!”

Red Bull is yet to have afforded Ricciardo an opportunity to race in its car and with Sergio Perez offering Max Verstappen stiff competition for the world championship this season, it may be wise for Ricciardo to look elsewhere for opportunities.

Why did Ricciardo go to AlphaTauri’s factory?

Daniel Ricciardo making a guest appearance in a podcast. Credit:
Daniel Ricciardo making a guest appearance in a podcast. Credit:

While the rumour mills began to work overtime following Ricciardo’s visit to AlphaTauri’s factory, Motorsport reporter Jonathan Noble explained that such visits are customary for reserve drivers.

It is worth understanding that Ricciardo has the dual responsibility of being a reserve at Red Bull as well as a backup for its sister team AlphaTauri.

Therefore, while it may be baseless to assume that Ricciardo will get a shot at AlphaTauri on the back of the factory visit, there is no denying the fact that de Vries is severely under the pump in his maiden season.

Till now, the Dutchman has failed to enter the points in his first five races and his best performance in a P14.

Red Bull technical advisor Helmut Marko has compounded the pressure on de Vries by suggesting that he has only the next three races to show any signs of improvement or he will be shown the exit door.

However, AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost has reiterated that the team trusts de Vries and believes he will soon deliver on the promise that made them sign him in the first place.

“As I always say, there is a learning process and a crash period because, if the drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit,” Tost said.

“This is a credit you must give them, otherwise it doesn’t work. And there was no driver not crashing. I remember with Sebastian (Vettel) in the first races, he came back on the first lap most often without the front nose. That’s part of the game.”

What should Ricciardo do?

Daniel Ricciardo. Credit:
Daniel Ricciardo. Credit:

Ricciardo, 33, has a deal at Red Bull till the end of the current season. While he is yet to race for them in his second stint, the team did confess that he seems close to recapturing his best form based on his work in the simulator.

Ricciardo will finally be seen in action later this year following the British Grand Prix in Silverstone when he will do a tyre test for Red Bull.

Another interesting option for Ricciardo making a return at a top team depends on Lewis Hamilton’s contract scenario.

If the seven-time world champion decides against extending his deal at Mercedes, Ricciardo’s experience could make him a valuable option to partner up with George Russell in 2024.

Where do you think Ricciardo’s future will take him? Let us know in the comments.

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