Tsunoda renewal piles the pressure on under-fire Ricciardo

It sums up Daniel Ricciardo's current state of affairs in Formula 1 as a weekend offering a rare competitive bright spot has so far been overshadowed by a public eviction of his form by Jacques Villeneuve, and now a new contract for Yuki Tsunoda.

The confirmation that Yuki Tsunoda will lead the squad at right-back in 2025 is not surprising given his form this season and the fact that Red Bull had an option on him for next year.

He had been linked with a move elsewhere, and other teams were genuinely interested, but unless this was an unlikely play to force someone to pay Red Bull for Tsunoda's service, the young Japanese driver would stay put for a fifth season. And it's worth it.

But what about Ricardo? There is no information about his future yet, although it is understood that Red Bull has an option on Ricciardo for 2025, like Tsunoda.

Instead, he remains the subject of a reminder from Helmut Marko, Red Bull's motorsport consultant, that his performance this year has not been impressive, and was flagged as overrated by Sky Sports analyst Villeneuve earlier this weekend in Montreal. .

Villeneuve resorted to the “excuses” being made to Ricciardo and his teams that they need to “make the car better for him”, claiming: “Maybe you make this effort for Lewis Hamilton who has won a lot of championships. Don't make this effort for a driver who can't make it.” .

“If you can't, go home, there's someone else to take your place.”

There will be plenty of people who agree with Villeneuve given Ricciardo's extremely disappointing stint at McLaren, an inconclusive partial season in 2023, and how he has fallen far behind Tsunoda in 2024. Although Villeneuve went too far when he dismissed the quality of Ricciardo's red team. Bull seasons and claimed he “stopped beating anyone” after half a season alongside Verstappen.

This is more than just ignorance considering how good Ricciardo was in 2014 and 2016, and the fact that he was winning races while Verstappen was struggling in late 2018, and was then excellent at Renault – especially in 2020. Yes, it's been too long to justify keeping him. Ricardo on the net nowBut since Villeneuve is being paid to share such scathing opinions, he should at least be held accountable for his inaccuracy.

To dismiss so much of Ricciardo's career was strangely spiteful, and actually undermined criticism of Ricciardo's current form given how good it is. He was It is the key to correctly determine the severity of its decline. But in essence, Villeneuve's frank assessment that “Ricciardo's image has kept him in F1 more than his actual results” is well supported by the results of the past few seasons.

Ricciardo had been under-performing for a very long time by his own standards, and off-track advantages played a big part in Red Bull bringing him back after McLaren, as did the belief that the 'old Ricciardo' was still around. The longer it goes without the 'old Ricciardo' being constantly on display, the more heavy lifting factors off the track.

The truth is that Tsunoda deserves to have his future secured now, but Ricciardo does not. And it was more than just a vote of no confidence in the Red Bull Racing seat that re-signed Sergio Perez. Ricciardo needs to worry about staying at right-back.

Aside from an encouraging weekend in China and a fourth-place finish at the Miami race, nothing has happened to make a convincing case that Ricciardo is back – or capable of returning – to his pre-McLaren best. Certainly not on a sustainable basis.

Ricciardo believes progress has been made this season, although he accepts he needs to do more. A tumultuous weekend in Canada seems to be going more in his favor – he was very competitive in final practice, his first meaningful session so far.

But that should translate into a good qualifying performance and race result. Even then, it will only take one weekend to add to the so far very modest bank of evidence in his favor.

The key question is how long does Ricardo have to do something. Team director Laurent Mekes indicated on Friday in Canada that there was no rush to make the decision. But Red Bull has previously made it clear that it is in a “use it or lose it” situation with reserve driver Liam Lawson in 2025. It either gives him a seat in Formula 1, or he is free to go elsewhere.

Ricciardo is being tracked by a young driver who has proven himself capable enough in Formula 1 with a good run of reserve appearances when Ricciardo was injured last year early in his comeback.

The longer Ricciardo's form remains disappointing, the more threatening Lawson becomes. Because Tsunoda's confirmation means that if Red Bull wants to give Lawson the seat he desires, Ricciardo is the only one who could be cut.


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