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Horner says Ricciardo needs to show ‘head-turning form’ if he wants Red Bull return

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in

Christian Horner has offered his thoughts on Daniel Ricciardo’s performances so far this season and the prospects of the current RB driver one day making a return to the senior Red Bull team.

Ricciardo rejoined the F1 grid with Red Bull’s sister team, Alpha Tauri (now RB), midway through the 2023 season, retaining his seat alongside Yuki Tsunoda for 2024 after that comeback was interrupted by a hand-breaking accident.

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However, while there were flashes of promise in the early stages of his return, which included qualifying fourth and finishing seventh in Mexico, Ricciardo struggled to make an impression over the first four rounds of the new season.

Indeed, he was out-qualified by Tsunoda in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Japan, and failed to score a point at any of those events while his team mate bagged seven, prompting chatter in the paddock about his future.

Asked about Ricciardo’s form ahead of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, Red Bull team boss Horner initially moved to play down the situation, commenting: “It’s still early days, isn’t it?

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive on

Ricciardo returned to F1 with AlphaTauri/RB after leaving McLaren at the end of the 2022 season

“I mean, his season hasn’t really got going yet, he’s had some difficulties. I think by his own admittance he would feel that he’s underperformed so far this year, but we’re only at race five.”

Horner was then asked if Ricciardo is out of contention for a return to Red Bull, the team he represented for five seasons from 2014 to 2018 and where he scored seven of his eight Grand Prix victories to date.

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Alongside that, he faced the question of whether there is a chance Ricciardo could be replaced at RB by reserve driver Liam Lawson, who impressed when he replaced the injured Australian for several events last season.

“I think that it’s pretty much in Daniel’s hands,” Horner added. “He needs to show the kind of head-turning form to make not only ourselves, but potentially to make others, take notice.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01

Ricciardo enjoyed a more competitive weekend in China, getting the better of team mate Tsunoda

“Obviously, waiting in the wings is a driver with the talent of Liam Lawson, who naturally is champing at the bit to get an opportunity, but there’s nothing pre-set or preordained as to when or even if that would take place.”

Horner signed off: “The priority is for sure for the drivers that are in the race seats at the moment and we’ll see how that pans out.”

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As it transpired, Ricciardo delivered an improved display at the Shanghai International Circuit, using a new chassis to outpace Tsunoda during Sprint Qualifying and qualifying for the Grand Prix, while also finishing ahead in the Sprint.

However, Ricciardo’s efforts on race day – and his push for a first points finish of the season – were scuppered when Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll rear-ended his RB under the Safety Car, sending him into retirement.

Ricciardo will also carry a three-place grid penalty over to the Miami Grand Prix weekend after the stewards determined that he breached the Safety Car regulations in a separate incident with Haas rival Nico Hulkenberg.

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