NZ’s Liam Lawson putting pressure on Red Bull F1 team

Daniel Ricciardo said Red Bull had given him no ultimatum as pressure mounts on the Australian to save his seat in Formula One.

Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of the season and his hope of replacing Sergio Perez at Red Bull next year has already gone, with the Mexican handed a contract extension this month.

His place at Red Bull-owned RB, the sister team to the champions, also looks under threat with Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko this week indicating it was time to bring in a young driver.

New Zealander Liam Lawson is the reserve and waiting for another opportunity after impressing as a stand-in.

“The shareholders have made it clear that RB is a junior team, and we have to act accordingly,” Marko told Austria’s Kleine Zeitung website.

“[Ricciardo’s] goal was to qualify for Red Bull with exceptional performances, but that seat now belongs to Sergio Perez. That plan is no longer going to happen, and we will soon have to put in a young driver. That would be Liam Lawson.”

Lawson replaced an injured Ricciardo for five races midway through last season, producing a string of solid drives for the team known at the time as Alpha Tauri.

Ricciardo told reporters at the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday that he only found out about Marko’s comments when he arrived at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring.

“I don’t feel one way or another about it. I still know the overriding thing in this sport is performance,” said the 34-year-old.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Scuderia AlphaTauri and Liam Lawson of New Zealand and Scuderia AlphaTauri during the 2023 F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas.

“That’s what will give me my best chance of staying here. I know that. It’s not going to be my smile or anything else, it’s the on-track stuff.

“There hasn’t been any pressure, ultimatum, nothing like that,” he added.

“But also I’ve been in the sport a long time. I know that if I’m getting my ass kicked every weekend at some point someone will be like ‘hey mate, step it up, otherwise…’. But I haven’t had that.”

RB have already confirmed Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda as one of their drivers for 2025 and chief executive Peter Bayer said in May that the team were happy with both and the focus was on races until the summer break.

There are three races remaining, including Austria, before the August interval.

Ricciardo is an eight times grand prix winner, seven of them with Red Bull from 2014-18, but he has been outscored by Tsunoda over the 10 races so far this season.

Last year was a comeback season for Ricciardo after he left McLaren by mutual agreement at the end of 2022 following a difficult two seasons with a 2021 win at Monza standing out among otherwise below-par performances.

Other teams locked in

Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll added more pieces to Formula One’s driver puzzle with the announcement of extensions keeping them at Renault-owned Alpine and Aston Martin respectively, into the sport’s new engine era starting in 2026.

The news left seven of the 20 seats still undecided, although some are effectively taken.

Alpine have announced the departure of Gasly’s fellow-Frenchman Esteban Ocon at the end of the season while Aston Martin confirmed in April that Fernando Alonso was staying in a lineup now set for a couple more years.

Gasly can expect to be under-performing Alpine’s clear leader on the track, unless they can persuade Carlos Sainz to join from Ferrari, and will help a team in dire need of stability.

Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence, said he was staying for 2025 and beyond.

Sainz, a race winner who is losing his seat to seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton at the end of the year, is key to the merry-go-round and the Spaniard has yet to decide which of several offers to accept.

Verstappen staying put

Meanwhile, three-time world champion Max Verstappen confirmed on Friday he will race for Red Bull next season, refuting rumours that he was contemplating a switch to Mercedes.

“I think I’ve said this before,” he said at a pre-Austrian Grand Prix press conference.

“I mean, naturally of course people are talking, but it’s most important just that we have a very competitive car for the future.

“At the moment of course it’s very tight, but we are working very well as a team to try and improve more. For sure, I’ve said this already with the team, we are working and focusing on next year to try and be competitive again.”

When asked if he’d depart should the 2025 car give him pause, the 26-year-old Belgian was quick to reference his current contract that spans through 2028.

“I have a long contract with the team, I’m very happy where I’m at and, like I said before, we’re focusing also already on next year with things that we can implement on the car,” Verstappen said.

“So, I guess that should say enough of where I’m driving next year.”

Verstappen passed George Russell on the third lap and cruised to a win at the Spanish Grand Prix last Sunday in Barcelona. It was his seventh F1 victory of the season and third straight at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalonia.

– Reuters

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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