Sky F1’s Martin Brundle believes that Daniel Ricciardo's F1 comeback has not yet lived up to expectations, and questions whether the Aussie would be ready to face off once again with Max Verstappen at Red Bull.
Ricciardo, who lost his seat at McLaren at the end of last year, made a sensational return to the grid with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix, filling the void left by the underperforming Nyck de Vries.
However, the 34-year-old's comeback was disrupted when he sustained a broken hand in a practice crash at his second race back at Zandvoort, forcing him to miss the next five events.
Despite his injury setback, Ricciardo returned to action in Mexico and delivered a stunning qualifying performance, securing a fourth-place grid slot. He then converted this into a solid seventh-place finish, marking AlphaTauri's best result of the season.
It’s no secret that Ricciardo is attempting to use AlphaTauri as a springboard to return to Red Bull and to the team’s coveted second seat currently filled by Sergio Perez.
The word in the paddock during the final races of 2023 was that the Mexican’s position remained precarious.
Should he fail to get up to speed and challenge Verstappen in the opening rounds of 2024, the consensus is that Ricciardo would be Red Bull’s preferred choice to step in for Perez, while Liam Lawson would replace the Aussie at AlphaTauri.
But Brundle believes that Ricciardo's performances will need to be more consistent and convincing if he aspires to be considered a top-tier driver.
The Briton also expected the ten-time Grand Prix winner to outshine his teammate Yuki Tsunoda by a more convincing margin.
“I don't think Daniel has perhaps outperformed Tsunoda as I would have expected him to,” Brundle said in a Sky F1 fan Q&A.
“I know he was thrown in at the deep end and he was really unlucky with that incident in Zandvoort. So the jury is out on that.
“And you have to say McLaren replaced him with Piastri, at some cost and pain, and that proved to be a pretty smart move, didn't it?”
“So for me, Daniel's got a lot more to do before I would think that he's ready to go and take the fight to Max Verstappen,” Brundle concluded.
As for the confident Dutchman, Verstappen agreed with Brundle that Ricciardo would need to prove himself once again worthy of a plum drive at Red Bull.
"I think Daniel has the talent to drive for a top team like Red Bull," Verstappen said last month.
"But he needs to show that he can still perform at the highest level. If he can do that, then I'm sure Red Bull would be interested in bringing him back.
“He's got a lot of experience and he's always been able to extract the maximum from the car. If he can get back to his best, then I'm sure he would be a very valuable asset to any team."