Red Bull confirm Ricciardo’s return “home” as third driver in 2023

2023 F1 season

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Red Bull have officially confirmed the return of Daniel Ricciardo, four years after he left the team, as their new third driver.

Ricciardo’s comeback was revealed by the team’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, though team principal Christian Horner said on Saturday no contract had yet been signed. Red Bull confirmed Ricciardo’s return in an announcement the following Wednesday.

In his role as third driver, Ricciardo will take part in testing and simulator work, as well as marketing activities.

Ricciardo arrived in F1 with Red Bull’s backing in 2011 and was promoted to their main team in 2014. He left four years later after taking seven wins with them.

“It is great to bring Daniel back into the Red Bull family,” said Horner after Ricciardo’s return was made official.

“He has enormous talent and such a brilliant character. I know the whole factory is excited to be welcoming him home.

“In his role as test and third driver, Daniel will give us the chance to diversify, assisting in the development of the car, aiding the team with his experience and knowledge of what it takes to succeed in F1.”

After leaving Red Bull in 2019, Ricciardo spent two years at Renault and two more at McLaren. Despite a surprise win in last year’s Italian Grand Prix, his spell at McLaren proved a disappointment, and the team decided to cut his contract short by a year.

Ricciardo is “truly excited to be coming back home to Red Bull Racing as their third driver in 2023”.

“I already have so many fond memories of my time here, but the welcome from Christian, Dr Marko and the entire team is something I’m sincerely appreciative of,” he said. “For me personally, 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.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “Red Bull confirm Ricciardo’s return “home” as third driver in 2023”

  1. a step down. Red Bull a great sporting machine though.

  2. Conflicted about this. Like for the DOTS episode it’s gonna be super weird to see the evolution of Ricky not wanting to be second driver to Max and then coming back four years later as third driver.

    On the other hand, Red Bull’s PR work perfectly suits Ricciardo and I look quite fondly to the Max/Ricky pre-race promo videos, so if we can get some of that dynamic back (with some added Checo and De Vries/Tsunoda), that wouldn’t be too awful.

    Still hope F1TV manages to get him as a pundit for next year, if he chooses to not go racing elsewhere.

    1. DTS episode*

  3. think he’s made a mistake but hope to be proved wrong I can’t see DR being in a f1 car competively unless Checo tells Red Bull to #@X+ off as think if a seat does come up Mick will be back

    1. Haas is utterly useless at developing young drivers. So it is fair to say that Schumacher was dealt a bad hand there. However, Mick didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either, barring a couple of races. I agree he deserves a second chance in a team that can actually support him, but he’s not a Red Bull level driver in my mind. At most, they stick him in an Alpha Tauri (in ’24 or ’25), and evaluate him.

      1. Would you think he deserves another chance if his name had not been Schumacher, but Hendriksen?

        1. I definitely would, in fact he was imo unfairly left without a drive: he showed enough to be worthy of a f1 drive at a team like haas or similar, and with the experience he has now, he would match magnussen if you let him try another season as team mate.

        2. The schumacher name doesn’t make me like him more than ralf schumacher for example, and that’s his potential, don’t see him being a michael.

        3. @SpaFrancorchamps Yes. Yes I would. I would love to have seen Stoffel Vandoorne get another shot, as McLaren was an absolute shambles during his tenure. Sadly though, I think he’s been out of F1 too long for that to be realistic possibility now.

  4. Wholesome <3

    It is a moving gesture from Red Bull to reach out a hand to someone at the lowest point in their career. They have not forgotten about their former driver.

    One might argue that a third driver role is a step back for Daniel, but sometimes you need to take a step back in order to take two steps forwards. Whatever the future may bring, the Red Bull family is the ideal environment for the honey badger to find his mojo back.

    1. Finally, something positive. Thank You.

      I wish for good things for Daniel

    2. I guess its good for ricci to take a year off without losing the connection with F1.
      Great move .

    3. Yes, it’s a move that makes sense because if anyone knows firsthand ricciardo’s potential it’s horner and marko, and I guess they also feel like they have a car that can still suit his driving style, however it’s gonna take quite something to give him another chance: he’s not much younger than perez, so if he performs and wants to stay I don’t see it likely, unless he would be ok with a toro rosso move, that’s far more likely to have spots available.

  5. Unsurprising, but I wonder when & where the image got taken.
    Seemingly too sunny to be Milton Keynes, so perhaps even YMC.

  6. Well never say never. Who would have thought that Hulkenberg would be making a comeback in 2023 after being away for three seasons. I would not rule out Daniel getting a proper drive in the next 2 or 3 seasons. It will be difficult for him though.

    I suspect, like many others, that RBR have also done this to keep Checo from getting out of line or difficult. I would not even rule out Daniel replacing Checo at some point in the future if he proves an asset to the team.

  7. Well if Horner couldn’t get one McLaren driver to sign with him, I guess he got the other.

    All snarkiness aside, I think this is an ideal situation for Ricciardo. He goes to a familiar place with very little pressure so he can regroup. And Red Bull gets some good PR after, let’s face it, a pretty bad season of PR for them in just about every area except winning two championships.

  8. Perez should be nervous. If the relationship with Verstappen worsens, Perez might be sacrificed. At first I thought Verstappen’s claims of Perez crashing deliberately in Monaco were ridiculous, but the telemetry shows some indications in favour of Verstappen’s case.

    1. Agreed, but conflicted by the thought that he would risk the gear box that way. But maybe it being Monaco made it worth the risk. Wondering if this has been a rumor floating around the paddock since Monaco or if it was just something stewing in Max’s camp until Brazil.

    2. But you’ll never see them discussed in the comments sections of F1 websites, because the % of Verstappen haters is too high for that.
      Moreover, team orders were universally criticized until Mexico GP 2022. After that, it became acceptable.

    3. Verstappen refused to confirm it’s that and also didn’t give any hint whatsoever until brazil he was angry, seems very strange.

      1. Nothing strange about keep your cards close to your chest.
        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    4. @matthijs The telemetry shows nothing in favor & Perez already denied the deliberate accusations.
      Still ridiculous to even think he would’ve crashed deliberately, given possible damage implications as happened with Leclerc 12 months before & crash-gate implications.
      Most relevantly, he secured a Ferrari front-row start rather than an RBR front-row or pole.

  9. Best place for him to discover whether he had lost confidence in himself as well as the McLaren and either get it back or know for sure that “it’s time”

  10. Someone might correct me on this, but when Vettel fell out with Ferrari, I believe Helmut Marko reached out to Seb and offered him a return to Red Bull, on the condition that he would take a year out to recover. If it’s true, that plus this gesture shows Red Bull really do trust their top tier drivers. They may have to be brutal when it comes to culling non-superstars from Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri, but they do reward as much as they can to those who deliver.

    1. And as others have already said, this suits Red Bull very nicely regardless as it’s a warning sign for Perez to stay well-behaved! Not that I think Ricciardo has lost his edge, I’m sure he’d be just as good with a car that suits him well.

      1. He definitely should, just look at his performance at monza 2021 to see the red bull ricciardo.

  11. I get that driving an F1 car is probably a real kick, a great moneymaker, and something no other machine can quite replicate, but the extent to which even very experienced drivers insist on dragging out careers that – let’s be honest – are unlikely to ever go beyond squabbling in the midfield is still somewhat surprising. Especially since Ricciardo’s skill and marketing appeal would probably make him an interesting candidate for any of the numerous LMH/LMDh seats opening up over the coming two seasons, not to mention the Indycar scene.

    1. Every F1 driver since, like, ever, says precisely that. No other discipline offer the same feel than Formula 1. So the adrenaline addicts keep going and going. It’s the same adrenaline that moved their careers in the first place.

      Michael Schumacher considered a move to Sauber for 2013. He really thought seriously about it.

  12. He’s there only to replace Verstappen if needed (injury etc.), not Perez. But in that case they still can call Vettel just to ask if he’s ready for little comeback.

    1. I mean do you guys really believe they took him to use as a threat for Perez? Even destroyed by Norris Ricciardo probably still thinks Lando can’t be better than Max (he even said something like that last year) so it was just “McLaren doesn’t suit my driving style” excuse. Imagine Verstappen has a bad day and Ricciardo beats him and here we go, the Honey Badger is back! Not bad for a №2 driver! All British Royal Media start to support Australian guy and throw bombs on Red Bull… I don’t believe Red Bull are stupid enough to renew Verstappen-Ricciardo combination on a regular basis.

  13. It is a slightly strange move – drivers at this stage of their career (especially race winning ones) don’t tend to go for reserve roles. But I can see why it makes sense for both parties. He presumably costs RB very little (obviously none of us know the terms of the split with McLaren, but it’s safe to say someone is making up the difference somewhere).

    I don’t think anyone thinks Daniel has forgotten how to drive, but whats has happened even Daniel himself probably doesn’t know.

    Have Red Bull ever re-hired someone? Off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone (other than the usual junior / senior team switches). In fact – not many F1 teams in history have gone back to a driver.

    He might be there because he keeps Checo on his toes – or PR, who knows? I can see why it appeals to Red Bull, and I guess Daniel was out of options.

    1. They did but not to the top team.
      I mean, it’s not really them re-hiring him to the top team just yet.
      But anyway it is markedly different from the treatment I’d expect from Renault – even post-Abiteboul – maybe this is a part of the explanation for the difference in pace between those two teams

  14. Still better than my job! Can someone please explain the difference between third driver and reserve driver? Genuine question

    1. Pastaman, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I know what a third driver is either. I’ve heard of teams having a reserve driver and a test driver. A test driver is someone who, these days, seems to spend most of their time in the simulator, working with the engineers, testing out different configurations, but not necessarily ready for a race seat. A reserve driver is a safe pair of hands, someone who can be available at the drop of a hat if one of the main drivers is ill and cannot drive. I’m thinking third driver sounds more like a reserve driver role, and I’d guess that Red Bull will take him to most of the races and he’ll do “ambassador” type stuff unless he’s called on to jump in the car. But like I said, I’ve no idea really what “third driver” means.Any enlightenment much appreciated.

    2. Is there only one third driver? Is there a third third driver? (It’s like the fifth Beatle!)

  15. Imagine the amount of “i told you..” involved on this deal.

    Daniel, and Sainz, and now Gasly did the right thing leaving, Sainz is a true competitor now. Nobody expected Ricciardo’s stint at mclaren to be so bad that it nearly killed his career to the point he considered being back to Red Bull as a poster boy to be a good move.

  16. I see this as a “In case of emergency, break glass” if for some reason Max and Checo’s relationship brims to a boiling point next year or onward. Marko and Horner know they have a capable driver to stick in that seat in case things get really bad in the garage.
    Yeah, Danny would be 3rd fiddle behind Max but I’m sure he sees this as a stepping stone back into a seat in 2024 and a way to keep himself relevant. Let the man live!

    1. Annual salary?

      1. Ricciardo is already very rich, so that’s not really relevant. The mclaren payout alone is already “set up for life” territoy.

        His focus is his passion not the moula.

  17. Glad he found an opportunity to keep involved in the sport and work towards racing again in future. I think he’s still got some good drives left in him if given the right car.

    1. “I think he’s still got some good drives left in him if given the right car.” I think, I hope, so.

  18. As a Danny Ric fan this is a sensible move given his performances at McLaren. On the bright side he gets to go back to a car with a stable front end that suits his driving style which is all about a stable entry then rotating the rear end

    1. Agree 100%.

  19. Daniel and Max made by far the best promotional videos. RB F1 team is one big promotional tool for a softdrink.
    Nobody believes the sincerity of a Checo & Max try to race each other in a friendly matter on two rubber tubes tied behind one speedboat.
    That’s the kind of videos RB drivers need to make for their big fat paycheck.

  20. It’s a great move for both parties. For Ricciardo it was this or out. For Red Bull is a known asset. Both Red Bull and Ricciardo know very well that Ricciardo is able to perform if he feels comfortable with the car. It’s not a Champion characteristic, but it’s a solid driver one. Like Hulkenberg just has shown, it’s the best possible door for Ricciardo to get back to the grid in the future.

    I don’t understand why people seem surprised. An experienced driver to accept a top-team reserve driver role was a novelty some 20 years ago, when race winner Olivier Panis took the McLaren 3rd seat. This is not new anymore.

  21. Will he act as reserve driver too though? If Max or Checo are unavailable?

  22. well unless checo quits DR’s career in f1 is done. hes now relegated to being a show driver who will replace DC as the RB mascot…

  23. He didn’t want to be a number two so he crawled back as a number four!

    Sometimes holding on to your comfort blanket is the very worst thing to do long-term. It may feel all fuzzy and warm but give it time and he’ll realise the opportunities he could have had that are now gone.

    1. Have to be realistic though: he only lost some potential wins and podiums, he wasn’t gonna go for a championship with a by then experienced verstappen as team mate and a stronger mercedes in the years since he left red bull.

    2. Teddy Roosevelt, The Man In The Arena:

      “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  24. This is brilliant PR by Red Bull, very nicely played

  25. When is Perez’s contract until? I guess they will replace him with Ricciardo. Or maybe Verstappen will leave for another team and they replace him with Ricciardo. I think everyone just assumes he’ll stay at Red Bull forever. I am a little bit surprised though. If he does get a drive back at Red Bull he’ll have to play second fiddle to Verstappen no matter how good he drives.

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