until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Tsunoda renewal piles the pressure on under-fire Ricciardo

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

It just about sums up Daniel Ricciardo’s current Formula 1 situation that a weekend offering a rare competitive bright spot has so far been overshadowed by a public evisceration of his form by Jacques Villeneuve, and now a new contract for Yuki Tsunoda.

Confirmation that Yuki Tsunoda will drive for the RB team in 2025 is unsurprising given his form this season and the fact Red Bull had a contractual option on him for next year.

He was linked with a move elsewhere, other teams were genuinely interested, but unless this is an unlikely play to force someone to pay Red Bull for Tsunoda’s service the young Japanese driver is staying put for a fifth season. And deservedly so.

But what about Ricciardo? There is no word on his future yet, even though like Tsunoda Red Bull is understood to have an option on Ricciardo for 2025.

Instead, he continues to be the subject of reminders from Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko that his performances this year haven’t been impressive, and was overdramatically slated by Sky Sports F1 pundit Villeneuve earlier in the Montreal weekend.

Villeneuve piled into the “excuses” being made for Ricciardo and his teams needing to “make the car better for him”, claiming: “Maybe you make that effort for Lewis Hamilton who's won multiple championships. You don’t make that effort for a driver who can’t cut it.

“If you can’t cut it, go home, there’s someone else to take your place.”

There’ll be plenty of people who agree with Villeneuve given Ricciardo’s very disappointing McLaren stint, his inconclusive part-season in 2023, and how he has trailed Tsunoda so much in 2024. Although Villeneuve went too far when he dismissed the quality of Ricciardo’s Red Bull seasons and claimed “he stopped beating anyone” after half a season alongside Verstappen.

That more than dabbled in ignorance given how good Ricciardo was in 2014 and 2016, the fact he was winning races while Verstappen struggled as late as early 2018, and was then excellent at Renault - especially in 2020. Yes, that’s too long ago to justify keeping Ricciardo on the grid now, but as Villeneuve is paid to share such acerbic opinions he should at least be held accountable for his inaccuracies.

Dismissing so much of Ricciardo’s career was bizarrely spiteful, and actually undermined criticism of Ricciardo’s current form given how good he was is key to correctly framing the extent and sharpness of his decline. But at its core, Villeneuve’s blunt assessment that Ricciardo’s “image has kept him in F1 more than his actual results” is well supported by the results of the past few seasons.

Ricciardo's underdelivered for too long by his own standards, and off-track benefits did play a big part in Red Bull picking him up again post-McLaren, as did a belief the 'old Ricciardo' was still in there. The more time passes without the ‘old Ricciardo’ being consistently on display though, the more heavy lifting off-track factors do.

Ricciardo believes there’s been progress through this season, though he accepts he needs to do more. The weather-affected Canada weekend is certainly going more in his favour - he was very competitive in final practice, and turned that into an excellent fifth place in qualifying.

But that now needs to become a good race result. And even then it would only be one weekend to add to a very modest bank of evidence in his favour so far.

The fact is, Tsunoda deserves to have his future secured now, but Ricciardo doesn't. And it’s more than just the vote of no confidence for a Red Bull Racing seat that re-signing Sergio Perez was. Ricciardo needs to worry about staying at RB.

Apart from an encouraging China weekend and finishing fourth in the Miami sprint, nothing’s happened to make a convincing argument that Ricciardo’s back - or able to get back - to his pre-McLaren best. Certainly not on a sustained basis.

Ricciardo believes there’s been progress through this season, though he accepts he needs to do more. The weather-disrupted Canada weekend looks to be going more in his favour - he was very competitive in final practice, the first meaningful session so far.

But that needs to translate into a good qualifying performance and race result. And even then it would only be one weekend to add to a very modest bank of evidence in his favour so far.

The key question is how much time Ricciardo has to do something. Team principal Laurent Mekies indicated on Friday in Canada that there was no rush to make a decision. But Red Bull has previously made it clear it’s in a ‘use him or lose him’ situation with reserve driver Liam Lawson in 2025. It either has to give him an F1 seat, or he’s free to go elsewhere.

Ricciardo’s being shadowed by a young driver who proved himself capable enough in F1 with a good set of stand-in appearances when Ricciardo got injured last year early into his comeback.

The longer Ricciardo’s form remains underwhelming on average, the more of a threat Lawson becomes. Because Tsunoda’s confirmation means if Red Bull does want to give Lawson the seat he craves, it’s only Ricciardo who can be cut.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks