Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko has ruled out Daniel Ricciardo embarking on a full-time Formula 1 comeback with AlphaTauri in place of the struggling Nyck de Vries.
Speculation mounted earlier this week that Ricciardo was potentially being lined up to partner Yuki Tsunoda for the remainder of 2023 after it was reported the Australian had undergone a seat fitting in Faenza.
But Marko has quashed rumours that Ricciardo, who returned to Red Bull this year as its reserve driver after his McLaren exit, would be top of the list if de Vries was axed.
The Austrian has signalled that de Vries needs to improve his form to retain his drive for the remainder of the season, however, and lists Red Bull junior drivers Ayumu Iwasa and Liam Lawson as the two candidates who would be in contention for promotion.
“Nothing will happen in the next three races,” Marko told F1Insider.
“We talked to de Vries and he is of the same opinion as us: he has to increase. The distance to teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who does a great job, is too great.
“To use footballer’s language: Nick got the yellow card, but not the red one yet. If it increases, a change of driver will not be an issue.
“In case of cases, we would fall back on our junior pool. It’s specifically about Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa. Ricciardo is not an issue,” he declared.
Along with Ricciardo, Marko has also denied that Mick Schumacher could be considered for a place within the Red Bull stable.
The German’s contract with Haas wasn’t renewed at the end of last year after two seasons with the team, resulting in him becoming Mercedes’ reserve driver for 2023.
“He is a Mercedes driver and he does not occur in our plans,” he added. “Accordingly, Toto Wolff is responsible for him.”
De Vries was handed his F1 break after starring in a stand-in appearance for Williams in place of an unwell Alex Albon at last year’s Italian Grand Prix.
The Dutch driver qualified and finished inside the top 10 to throw his hat into the ring for a seat on the 2023 grid.
Having previously been under strong consideration by Williams to replace the outgoing Nicholas Latifi, Alpine’s pursuit of Pierre Gasly prompted Red Bull to swoop in to secure De Vries’ signature.
However, de Vries has been unable to repeat the exploits of his deputy performance at Monza, enduring an arduous start to his rookie campaign with the Italian outfit.
He is one of only two drivers yet to score points – along with fellow rookie Logan Sargeant, whose seat is also reportedly coming under pressure – and has been convincingly outperformed by Tsunoda in the opening five rounds of the season.
Lawson, following two seasons in Formula 2, has begun his new venture in the Super Formula series in Japan excellently, scoring a victory on his debut.
Meanwhile, Iwasa is undertaking his second year in F2 with the DAMS team after scoring two wins and two pole positions to classify fifth in his debut year in the category.
Given that Marko has vocally given de Vries three races at least to improve his performance, any change would not come before the Canadian Grand Prix next month.