Daniel Ricciardo remaining ‘optimistic’ after slow start to his Austrian Grand Prix

Friday was not the easiest of days for Daniel Ricciardo as the 2024 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix got underway.

But despite the early struggles, one of F1’s main attractions is staying upbeat.

Ricciardo posted the 16th-fastest time in the single practice of the week, and could not improve on that position in Friday’s F1 Sprint Qualifying session. The Visa Cash App RB F1 Team driver finished 16th, leading to his elimination in SQ1.

Perhaps adding to the frustration? The fact that Ricciardo missed out on a spot in SQ2 by less than three-hundredths of a second, to teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

But in his post-session comments, Ricciardo remained positive.

“It’s a short lap here, so it’s always going to be tricky. We changed quite a lot from FP1, and we’re still trying to learn about the package, but obviously, it’s frustrating when you miss out by a small bit,” said the driver in VCARB’s post-session media report. “The second lap of the Sprint-Quali was definitely better than the first one, but we still need to finetune some things. I do think we made the right changes, but maybe we need to balance it better. We’ll try to use the Sprint to understand the car always more, so I’m staying optimistic.”

Ricciardo’s optimism comes as there is increased speculation about his position with the team, not just for the 2025 season but perhaps the rest of this season. Red Bull Senior Advisor Dr. Helmut Marko kicked that speculation off ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this week, noting that there is perhaps some pressure from shareholders to give a younger driver — Liam Lawson — a seat at VCARB.

That speculation kicked into overdrive when noted F1 journalist Joe Saward surmised on social media that Lawson could be in that seat as early as this summer.

With the usual caveats that every rumor regarding driver movement in F1 needs to be given context and taken with a healthy grain of salt or two, Ricciardo admitted during Thursday’s media day that he needs to improve his performance.

“I said I really do enjoy being back in the [Red Bull] family,” said Ricciardo to the assembled media on Thursday. “I weirdly do enjoy sometimes a little bit of the pokes from Helmut because I think it also could be a way to get me a little bit fired up and try to get the best out of me.”

Still, Ricciardo was clear about what he needs to do to secure his future.

“It’s the on-track stuff so I’ve obviously got a good opportunity, I say until the summer break,” continued Ricciardo. “I don’t think that’s a deadline but obviously that’s what you look at for the first half of the season. So I try to do what I can and obviously help my cause.”

Friday also saw the second FIA Press Conference ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, with VCARB CEO Peter Bayer addressing Ricciardo’s performance to date, as well as the rumors regarding Lawson.

“Well, [Ricciardo] certainly has helped us tremendously. Looking back last year when he joined the team, he brought a whole new energy and spirit into the team. And he has been extremely helpful in supporting Yuki. Yuki has just stated that very recently, actually, that he still keeps learning from Daniel,” began Bayer. “And it’s part of our job, also as a mission from the shareholders, to develop drivers. And that’s what we currently do. But certainly, as Christian said, this is about performance.

“We do luckily have a couple of options with the junior [program], but we’re also not in a hurry to take a decision for next year’s line-up. We’ve confirmed Yuki, which was very important for us. And the focus currently, honestly, as you can tell, is on the car and to go into the summer break and have a quiet discussion.”

Bayer — as well as Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner — was pressed on the driver lineup by the brilliant Luke Smith of The Athletic. For Horner, he outlined how any decisions will be first addressed in-house, but did offer that like everything in F1, the lineup at VCARB is “fluid.”

“I think anything regarding drivers is going to be dealt with in-house before we talk to the media about it. They’re all, as I say, Red Bull racing drivers and every Red Bull driver knows that there’s always a pressure, that there’s always a scrutiny,” described Horner. “But, you know, Daniel is in the seat and it’s down to him to make the most of that. And then, it’s always, as we see in Formula 1, things are always fluid.”

As for Bayer, he echoed Horner’s thoughts.

“Perhaps just to add on what Christian perfectly summarised, Liam is part of the team, he’s our test driver, he’s in the simulator,” added Bayer. “As most of you know, he’ll be in the [Testing of Previous Car session]. We do our job to develop young drivers, but the decision on the second seat will be taken quietly and we’re not in a hurry.”

VCARB and Red Bull might not be in a hurry to solidify their lineup for 2025 — and make a decision on Ricciardo’s future — but the driver remains under mounting pressure to improve his form.

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