RB boss Mekies believes Ricciardo already bouncing back

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) RB on the grid. 07.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images
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Visa Cash App RB team principal Laurent Mekies still has faith in Daniel Ricciardo to make it back to the top flight of F1 drivers on the grid despite a poor start to his season.

Ricciardo has failed to score a point in the opening four rounds of the 2024 world championship, while his RB team mate Yuki Tsunoda has finished in the top ten twice in Australia and Japan.

Ricciardo enjoyed his best qualifying session of the season so far in Suzuka and only narrowly missed out on making the final cut for the pole shoot-out round, but then crashed out at the start of the race.

Despite the incident with Williams' Alex Albon, Mekies felt that Ricciardo's overall performance that weekend showed that the veteran driver was getting on top of his early issues and was more back to his old self.

“Things are improving with Daniel a lot, already from Australia,” Mekies told SpeedCity Broadcasting this week. "The pace was there, so it gave us great confidence.

"He was obviously right there as well for the top ten together with Yuki, so it is a positive," he added. Mekies was also pleased with Ricciardo's race before Japan despite a poor grid position in Melbourne.

Starting from P18, Ricciardo finished his home race in 12th place which Mekies thought was a good showing "even though he did a race from the back, a very frustrating race from the back."

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) RB VCARB 01 and Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW46 crashed out of the race. 07.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

Crashing out on the first lap in Japan was not ideal, Mekies admitted. “Of course no driver wants to lose time in the car, and we know that every second counts and matters," he said. "But I’m sure he will be 100 per cent in China.

"These sort of things happen. He has been around long enough to know that what matters is the speed, and he has the speed.”

There has been speculation that Red Bull reserve Liam Lawson is being lined up to step in and replace Ricciardo as soon as next month, but Mekies denied any such suggestions.

“There is always pressure, at this level," Mekies said when asked if Lawson waiting in the wings was a distraction for Ricciardo. “The whole field is the same up and down the grid — there will be huge pressure.

Laurent Mekies (FRA) RB Technical Director. 21.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

“The highest pressure is the one they put on themselves to perform at the highest level at all times, and that’s probably what is driving them most," he added. "It doesn’t matter so much if the reserve driver is here or not."

Lawson has already proven his ability to replace Ricciardo in the cockpit, having done so last year when Ricciardo injured his hand in practice and Lawson had to take over for five races.

He's now tipped for a full-time role at RB in 2025, meaning that one of the RB team's current line-up - either Ricciardo or Tsunoda - could end up out on the street.

"We have a very good reserve driver with Liam," Mekies acknowledged. "He has shown last year how impressively he could step in, but I really don’t think it’s adding any pressure on the guys."

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