From the past to the present
Together they have formed one of the funniest pairs of teammates to see in all of recent Formula 1 history: bitter rivals on the track, friends off the track. Between 2016 and 2018 Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo they represented the young and cheeky spirit of a Red Bull team that was desperately trying to close in on the – seemingly invincible – dominance of Mercedes. Today, however, the world has turned upside down: the Milton Keynes team reigns supreme and Verstappen is a two-time world champion seeking a third consecutive title. Ricciardo on the other hand, after far from lucky events in Renault and above all McLaren, returned to the group, however he had to accept the role of the third driver.
A gap year
The Australian is going through something of a sabbatical year, focusing more on the team’s promotional plans and a lot of work on the simulator. All in hoping to return to being a regular driver next season. A Perth rider would like a back in style, with a top team, but it seems unlikely that the doors of a title contender, including Red Bull, could be opened for him. Sergio Perez has a contract until the end of the 2024 season and – although the relationship with Verstappen is not good – it seems there is no reason why Christian Horner and Helmut Marko should do without the Mexican.
So if he wants to go back to the grid, it is likely that Ricciardo will have to reduce his ambitions and start looking around. Verstappen himself took care to ‘sponsor him’, who speaking to the journalists present in Monaco reaffirmed his hope to see his friend again the main character in the Grands Prix early next year: “We spent several years together, but not only in the team, even when he was in other teams – Verstappen recalled – he is a nice person, very funny. I think for the whole team it’s good to have him back and for him too, to get that kind of positive energy again. in the hope that he can return to a full-time position in racing“.
Difficulty in McLaren
Verstappen has also tried to give an answer to the question that many are wondering in the paddock: why marriage between Ricciardo and McLaren – except for the incredible victory at Monza 2021 – it worked so badly that it caused early separation between partiesone year before the normal expiry of the contract: “Maybe because he wasn’t confident with the car and didn’t enjoy himself – predicted the world champion – now I think he is having enough fun – concluded #1 – but I also know that he wants to run and I hope for him that he can find a place on the grid again“.