AlphaTauri say it’s ‘definitely the plan’ for Ricciardo to return in Austin after successful simulator session
Newly-installed AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer has said that it’s “definitely the plan” to have Daniel Ricciardo back in the AT04 for the United States Grand Prix later this month, after the Australian was sidelined with a broken hand in August.
It was back at the Dutch Grand Prix that Ricciardo suffered a broken metacarpal in his left hand after crashing to avoid compatriot Oscar Piastri – with Ricciardo undergoing surgery in order to repair the damage.
Since then, Ricciardo has been temporarily replaced by New Zealander Liam Lawson, while receiving the news in his absence that his race seat at AlphaTauri for 2024 was guaranteed alongside Yuki Tsunoda.
But speaking ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix – where Lawson is making his fifth super-sub outing – Bayer confirmed that Ricciardo was shooting for a return at the Circuit of The Americas in two weeks’ time.
“That's definitely the plan,” said Bayer on Friday in Qatar. “He was in the simulator on Monday and he said that he could, you know, go almost until the end, but it was not 100%. And we didn't want to rush things.
“And given that, again, on the other hand, we have this amazing luxury of having a top third driver who can jump into the seat, with Liam… together we decided to give him a bit more time and he should be in the car in in Austin.”
Lawson’s impressive performances in Ricciardo’s stead – the New Zealander having scored just a point less than full-time incumbent Tsunoda, courtesy of his ninth place in Singapore – have led to suggestions that Lawson had done enough to merit a full-time seat on the grid for 2024.
Asked why AlphaTauri had opted to keep Lawson as reserve for next season rather than promote him, Bayer replied: “We had lots of discussions about the future of the team and our shareholders said, you know, ‘we want you to continue and educate young drivers, but we also want you to be successful’. And I think, ultimately, you can't have both.
“You can't have two ‘young’, inverted commas, drivers in the team. And we were looking at what do we need to deliver that purpose and we finally came to the conclusion that, first of all, we only have two seats and Daniel is offering a lot of expertise, especially when it comes down to the set-up of the car, which is something that we were struggling with.
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“Yuki, over the years has grown and is now coming to the pinnacle of his performance curve. And so we thought that those two make the right team. On top of that, I think it's also good to have somebody like Liam just behind them to keep the fire warm under their seats and to make sure that we progress as a team.”
AlphaTauri will be looking to add to their tally of just five points in 2023 in Qatar – the team currently 10th out of 10 in the constructors’ standings, five points adrift of Alfa Romeo.