Ricciardo will once again line up for AlphaTauri – although the team’s new name for 2024 has yet to be confirmed – alongside Yuki Tsunoda, with the ultimate goal of re-clinching the seat he walked away from at the end of 2018.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner last week said “everything is open” in regards to their 2025 lineup.
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“As a team, you want to field the most competitive pairing that you can have, and you want the right dynamic in the team,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“Daniel is well known to us – it’s great to have him back in the Red Bull fold – and of course everything is open for 2025 onwards.
“For us, to have options internally and also externally is no bad place to be.”
Ricciardo has also previously stated a return to Red Bull would be a “perfect” way to end his F1 career.
But 1980 world champ Alan Jones believes Horner’s comments are only noise, and Ricciardo won’t get his perfect farewell.
He said Red Bull, who are now six-time world constructors champions, would far more likely insert a young driver alongside Max Verstappen over the 34-year-old Aussie.
“I think (Ricciardo) has run out of time a little bit in that department,” Jones told Wide World of Sports.
“Sergio’s got another year with them, and then there’s always some up and coming little star that’s going to be given that opportunity.
“I honestly believe Daniel’s probably lost the chance of getting back to Red Bull.”
A disappointing run of results from Perez in the middle of the year, coupled with Ricciardo’s return to the fold from the Hungarian Grand Prix, sent the rumour mill into overdrive the Mexican might be replaced for as early as 2024 despite having a contract.
With over half the grid off-contract at the end of 2024, this silly season is tipped to be one of the busiest yet.
Jones said with his Italian last name, Ricciardo would be a popular driver among fans at Ferrari, but it would take a bold move from one of their drivers for any kind of position to open.
But while he thinks Red Bull is a step too far, Jones believes getting back into F1 with AlphaTauri was the right call for Ricciardo, and predicted he would arrive at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with a much-improved car and a refreshed attitude.
“(The car is) a pseudo bloody Red Bull anyway, and I think there will be a lot of carryover information from the Red Bull team into AlphaTauri,” he said.
“I think you’ll see a much improved Daniel … he’s going to go back at the beginning of next year with a different mindset.”
Ricciardo is undoubtedly one of if not the most marketable drivers on the grid, and Jones suggested that had been equal parts a blessing and a curse.
He said part of that different mindset he will take to the first race in Bahrain is a renewed focus on his driving, rather than his marketability.
“I think at one stage, Daniel was too preoccupied with the bullshit going on outside the cockpit as opposed to what was going on inside the cockpit,” Jones said.
“And I think he was probably … too preoccupied with external affairs rather than head down and bum up concentrating on his driving.
“I think he even realised that he was probably being … not led astray, but I think he was letting his mind wander a little bit on other things other than Formula 1, and he needs to get back to the core of what he’s good at, and that’s driving a Formula 1 car.”
Since leaving McLaren at the end of 2022, Ricciardo has repeatedly said the cars he drove in his two-year stint there didn’t suit his driving style.
But Jones rubbished that claim, and insisted Ricciardo had “lost his way”, and it should have been up to him to find a driving style that suited the car.
He pointed to a period in the 1980s and 1990s where F1 drivers weren’t only F1 drivers, but competed in sports cars, other open-wheel categories and even touring cars on non-grand prix weekends.
“I’ve never been a real big believer in ‘my style doesn’t suit this car or that car’ or whatever. If you’re a racing driver, you race the car you’ve got,” Jones said.
“They used to jump in and out of touring cars and sports cars, I mean, a driver can drive anything.
“You’ve got your arse in the car and you drive the car through your bum, and all the engineer wants to hear is what the car is doing that you don’t want it to do, or what it’s not doing that you want it to do.
“Then you should be able to get your heads wrapped with your engineer and tune that car to suit you.
“Now, admittedly, that’s not always going to be 100 per cent the case, but you should be able to do it.
“If you’re a good racing driver, you can put your bum in virtually anything and be competitive or get the best out of that car.”
F1 pre-season testing begins in Bahrain on February 21, before the first opening race of the season at the same venue on March 2.