Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda will continue to race for AlphaTauri in Formula One next year after being confirmed by the team on Friday night. Here’s what you need to know:
- Ricciardo, who made his F1 comeback mid-season at AlphaTauri before sustaining a hand injury, will return full-time in 2024.
- Japanese driver Tsunoda continues for a fourth season at AlphaTauri.
- The decision leaves Liam Lawson, who has deputized for the injured Ricciardo, in a reserve role for 2024 despite an impressive cameo.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Ricciardo’s best shot at a return to Red Bull
When Ricciardo agreed to join AlphaTauri 10 races into this season, replacing the struggling Nyck de Vries, it was always a decision with the long game in mind.
Driving the slowest car on the grid wasn’t going to provide the kind of competitive satisfaction that had been lacking for most of his two-year stint at McLaren. But it did offer a path back towards a front-running car. As the sister team of Red Bull Racing, AlphaTauri would be the place he could make a claim for a seat alongside Max Verstappen in 2025.
Although Ricciardo’s comeback was halted after just two races after the Australian broke his hand in practice for the Dutch Grand Prix, he was always going to be kept on at AlphaTauri. Red Bull has seen glimpses of the skills that made him an eight-time Grand Prix winner, and the time away helped him rediscover his love for F1. Ricciardo also brings a marketing pull that few drivers on the grid can match.
Ricciardo now has the platform he needs to stake a claim to replace Sergio Pérez at Red Bull for 2025. It’s up to him to convince the team he quit so sensationally in 2018 that he’s ready to return.
Tsunoda gets another year
While this has been Tsunoda’s worst year on pure results, picking up just three points from a trio of 10th-place finishes, his performances have been better than ever. In his third season, he’s stepped up as team leader at AlphaTauri and displayed a consistency that was missing at earlier points in his career. A greater focus on his fitness and race preparations, as well as adjusting his mental approach, has paid off, allowing him to maximize the limited opportunities offered by the troublesome AlphaTauri car.
A fourth season with AlphaTauri will give Tsunoda a chance to prove to Red Bull why he is worth considering for any future opportunities at its senior team, which up to now has not been seen as a realistic move. Ricciardo is a competitive and experienced benchmark for him to go up against, providing Tsunoda — and, importantly, Red Bull — a good way to assess his performance.
What next for Lawson?
Since his last-minute F1 debut at Zandvoort as a replacement for Ricciardo, Lawson has made a very good case to be handed a full-time race seat. In only his third Grand Prix start in Singapore, he picked up AlphaTauri’s best result of the season by finishing ninth. Those within the team have been impressed by his quick adaptation and his calm approach, taking the rush of an unexpected F1 debut in his stride.
It made it an easy decision to keep him in the car until Ricciardo is fit to return, which may not be until the United States Grand Prix in mid-October.
Lawson will return to his reserve role for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri next year but is set to attend all the F1 races as part of the role. He admitted Thursday in Japan that he “wouldn’t be happy” to go back to a reserve role, but Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, said Friday in Japan that Lawson would “have plenty on his plate with other stuff to do.”
Red Bull’s goal will be to get him as prepared as possible for a full-time graduation in 2025 should a shake-up of the drivers across its two teams open up an opportunity.
AlphaTauri’s announcement leaves just one unconfirmed seat on the F1 grid for 2024, currently belonging to American driver Logan Sargeant at Williams.
(Photo: Peter Fox / Getty Images)