Things are never dull in Formula 1.
This was supposed to be a quiet week off, following a back-to-back in Austria and Britain, and ahead of another back-to-back in Hungary and the Netherlands. But a thunderbolt from the clouds came down on Monday, with the shocking news that Daniel Ricciardo was coming back to the grid.
After just ten races, AlphaTauri and Red Bull had seen enough from Nyck de Vries. The rookie was out, and Ricciardo was in, on loan to AlphaTauri starting with the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Still, with F1 on a bye week following the British Grand Prix it is time to take stock of just where each of the ten teams are ahead of Budapest. Working through the field from the bottom of the Constructors’ standings to the top, what is the biggest question facing each team right now?
And as luck would have it, that means we get to start with none other than AlphaTauri. As you might expect, the biggest question facing them has to do with Mr. Ricciardo himself.
Just what can we really expect from Daniel Ricciardo?
A benefit to taking the teams in reverse order in the standings for this series?
We address THE big story in F1 at the outset.
In a shock announcement, AlphaTauri and Red Bull announced that Daniel Ricciardo would be coming back to the grid with “immediate effect,” taking Nyck De Vries’ seat at AlphaTauri starting with the Hungarian Grand Prix.
While there were rumblings over the past few weeks that Ricciardo could be in line for that seat, many believed such a move would only come after the August shutdown. Instead, Ricciardo is in for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and De Vries is out.
Speaking with Dutch outlet De Telegraaf, Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko outlined exactly why. “We had to do something,” stated Marko. “Why would we wait? And what does it matter if we kept him for two more races when you don’t see any improvements? Nyck is a really nice guy, but the speed just wasn’t there.”
But now that Ricciardo is back, what can we expect to see from the F1 veteran?
At the Australian Grand Prix, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner talked at length about Ricciardo, and noted that while in the simulator the team “didn’t recognize [Ricciardo],” and that the driver had picked up some “habits.”
But he also had this to say about Ricciardo: “I’d say he’s about 10 minutes away from being ready. He’s in good shape. He’s kept himself fit and well. We’ve had to feed him up a bit. I don’t know what you guys did to him! He came back looking a bit skinny, but he’s looking healthier now. I think that he’s training hard and he’s ready to go given the chance.”
Perhaps Tuesday’s tyre test at Silverstone solidified that viewpoint?
Consider this bit of data from RaceFans:
That time from Ricciardo would have put him in the top ten of qualifying at the British Grand Prix.
“His lap times were competitive, on three different compounds,” Marko explained to De Telegraaf. “If Ricciardo wasn’t quick enough, we would have had to do something else. But since AlphaTauri is last in the constructor standings, so we had to bring about something. And usually a driver change does that. Ricciardo brings new energy to the team.”
Of course, those lap times need a bit of context. While it is unclear what tyre compound Ricciardo used to post that time — and that the official compounds for the British GP were the C1, C2, and C3, meaning the softer C4 and C5 could have been available — that time does stand out.
Especially when stacked up to the other three drivers, again with the caveat that we do not know for sure what compounds were used.
Also of note, with those same caveats? That time was ahead of Sergio Pérez, who failed to advance to Q3.
Perhaps the biggest caveat?
He did that in the RB19.
He will not be driving the RB19 at AlphaTauri.
Still, that offers a glimmer of hope for F1’s last-place team