Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Singapore, 2023

Ricciardo return ‘still a while away’ says AlphaTauri

Formula 1

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Daniel Ricciardo is still a “while away” from returning to racing as he continues to recover from a broken hand, says AlphaTauri.

This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix will be the fourth consecutive race that Ricciardo will miss after he broke a metacarpal in his left hand in a crash during practice at Zandvoort in late August.

Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson has stood in for Ricciardo at all four rounds and claimed the team’s best result of the season last weekend in Singapore.

Lawson is driving for the team again at Suzuka this weekend. The next round at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit in two weeks time was previously mooted as a potential date for Ricciardo’s return for stop

Asked how Ricciardo’s recovery was ongoing, AlphaTauri’s head of trackside engineering, Jonathan Eddolls, admitted that the 34-year-old driver still requires time.

“We all saw him in Singapore,” Eddolls said. “He’s still going through that recovery phase.

“I’d say we’re still talking a while away, so I wouldn’t want to put a target on it. The recovery is going well.

“We’ve got some simulator work planned before a return and I think from our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early. The worst thing would be to come back before it’s properly healed and cause any issues. So watch this space.”

Ricciardo was brought in by Red Bull to replace Nyck de Vries after the opening ten rounds of the season. Despite only competing in the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix before his injury, Ricciardo’s experience was valuable to a team used to running younger drivers, Eddolls said.

“Pretty much straight away you could feel the quality of the feedback,” Eddolls explained. “Not only about the feedback on the handling of the car.

“Obviously he’s got a wealth of experience and has driven many different cars and experienced many different ends of the performance spectrum. So having that feedback on our car was extremely valuable for us.

“But also I think the other things that were were impressive and remind us of what experience can bring were how he could understand the race, the feedback that he could give live, how he thought the tyres were behaving. Was it a one-stop or a two-stop? Or if there was a Safety Car, could he reheat these tyres or would we need to fit a fresh set.

“So lots of the time we’re making those decisions from the pit wall based on data, but when it’s not clear cut, having someone with that experience can really, really make a difference.”

Ricciardo’s timeline for returning to the cockpit will be led by the driver, Eddolls insisted.

“He’ll jump in the simulators, a very good representation of the car or the loads, et cetera,” he said. “I think the final decision is more than likely going to come from him rather than from us.

“He will know better than anyone. How’s the pain, how’s the recovery? So as I said, we’re not putting him under pressure to come back. We’ve got a pool of three good drivers at the moment, so there’s no big rush. The focus is on making a full recovery so that when he comes back, it’s not a point that’s even talked about.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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26 comments on “Ricciardo return ‘still a while away’ says AlphaTauri”

  1. Presumably, if it came down to it, Lawson would race in the Mexican GP rather than the final Super Formula round, as both take place on the same weekend.

    But it could present an interesting conundrum for AlphaTauri if Ricciardo is still unavailable and Lawson goes back to Japan for whatever reason. The rules say teams are only allowed to use four drivers per season, so they’d have to give de Vries a call…

    I expect Ricciardo will be back by then anyway, since it’s more than a month away. But fun to think about.

    1. I wonder how lenient F1 would be if they claimed Force Majeure?
      The 4 drivers thing was originally a 90s thing to curb rolling exchanges of pay drivers.
      However there were only 16 races I a season then, so you could easily argue that the number should be raised in line with number of races.

      1. I wonder how lenient F1 would be if they claimed Force Majeure?

        They chose to swap out a driver mid-season and thus took the third driver of four.
        A driver was injured and replaced, thus taking the fourth allowed.
        In what way is any commitment of their fourth driver to another clashing event to be considered Force Majeure?

      2. Even if that was the original intent, it’s still a fairly reasonable rule so teams don’t just have a rotating set of drivers. Most teams don’t even need to use their third driver, let alone fourth or fifth.

        Teams being trigger happy with their drivers like what AT are doing this season probably not something FIA wants to encourage. I mean you get two drivers (which covers 97% of situations) and two more backups. Seems fair.

        If you have like three freak low probability injuries and then you claim force majeure then fair enough but AT this season doesn’t feel like it especially since AT could have also chosen a driver that wasn’t in active competition in another FIA series with clashing dates.

    2. @red-andy I didn’t realise that rule was still in place. But yeah, I think they’d rather grovel to the FIA and other teams than go to Nyck.

      In all likelihood they’d just tell Liam he’s going to Mexico not Japan, end of.

      1. @bernasaurus Indeed, especially as he probably won’t continue in SF for next year in any case, so in this regard, losing out on a series championship wouldn’t be the world’s end.

      2. In all likelihood they’d just tell Liam he’s going to Mexico not Japan, end of.

        A reasonable response to that would be: “So, I’m in this seat next season too? Nice”

        Consider that if Ricciardo isn’t fit to race by Mexico, then Lawson will have raced more in the season than Ricciardo could possibly do, only three races after that point.
        If it takes that long for recovery, then he has lingering problems with racing and it could be a career end. I know us normal humans have lingering problems for months and years.

      3. It is not fair for Red Bull to demand Lawson to quit his title hunt in Super Formula without giving any certainties about his F1 future.

        1. @matthijs, wouldn’t Lawson much rather have another opportunity to shine in an F1 race than worry about the Super Formula title?

          1. @shimks Yes perhaps, I cannot decide for Lawson. But I think Lawson already made a good enough impression for himself for Alpha Tauro to decide on his future.

          2. But if he has a failure like Tsunoda had in Italy, the trip to Mexico will be a waste if time and quickly forgotten. Winning a title is something he can add to his resume forever.

            And if Red Bull doesn’t give him any role in 2024, he won’t have a drive nor a title. Something he may never get a chance to win again. Those handful of points in Singapore won’t do much for him in a few months time.

      4. @bernasaurus
        That would be excellent. If that was to happen, I really really really hope De Vries puts in a miraculous performance. A podium even. Just to see all the uncomfortable laughing faces hiding the pain, and awkward press conference

        1. Didn’t exactly this sort of thing happen in 2017 when AT fired Kvyat, bringing in Gasly, but then letting Gasly do off and race in Super Formula (as he was challenging for that championship), bringing Kvyat for one race, then bringing Gasly in again? They ended up having four drivers that season, as they also let Sainz go and brought in Hartley.

    3. Mexico is 2 months away from this injury. Would be strange if he didn’t recover by then.

  2. Weird that even the Qatar GP is now questionable despite seemingly being a realistic target this whole time.

    1. Nothing weird if you are (or listen to) a doctor, and understand the complexity of the fractures.

      The only weird thing is that F1 commenters make predictions about medical and physical recovery and then claim it to be ‘weird’ that reality could be different :p

  3. “We’ve got some simulator work planned before a return and I think from our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early. The worst thing would be to come back before it’s properly healed and cause any issues. So watch this space.”

    Lawson appears to be performing better than the driver he replaced. I wouldn’t be rushing to bring back Ricciardo either. That could potentially give Ricciardo a long term injury from a fairly innocuous track incident.
    What would present a significant problem, is a situation where Lawson continues to improve. How do you justify dropping Lawson then?

    1. Considering the car had an upgrade and the tracks aren’t all that comparable and add to that the fact that Ricciardo had done zero racing compared to Lawson having done actual competitive racing, I wouldn’t say you can make a fair comparison between the two at all. You can compare both to Yuki, though, and I think either driver made Yuki look way less impressive than he looked against a failing De Vries. He looks, once again, like he did during the Gasly years. A decent driver, but not up to par considering his experience level at this point.

      So yeah, Lawson is making a case for himself I feel, but not against Daniel, but rather as a replacement for Yuki next year.

      1. @sjaakfoo unfortunately I think money/commercial contracts mean Yuki is the only one that’s safe.. that said, reports were that he would be announced prior to the Japanese GP and this hasn’t happened yet. Might still happen but maybe people making decisions are having a think?

        1. Nope it’s announced. Yuki & Daniel

    2. I agree there is some complexity here. I wouldnt be surprised if we didnt see Ricciardo return at all.

    3. No-one needs to “justify” Liam returning from his temporary callup to a lower category, or being loaned out.

  4. They also need to remove two steel plates from his head..
    They stick out like Mickey Mouse ears and he can’t get his lid on.

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