Ex-Formula 1 driver and experienced TV pundit Martin Brundle says beating Yuki Tsunoda should be the minimum expectation of Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that Ricciardo will replace Nyck de Vries at the Faenza-based side for the remainder of 2023.
The Australian was let go by McLaren at the end of last year after two torrid seasons with the British squad, ahead of returning to Red Bull as one of the reigning champion’s reserve driver options for this year.
Brundle relays that he was surprised at Ricciardo’s willingness to mark his comeback with the side residing in last place in the Constructors’ Championship.
“I’m really pleased to see him back, but just my honest reaction was: ‘Wow, Daniel’s going to do that, is he?’ It surprised me,” Brundle told Sky Sports News.
“Daniel’s always talked about he’s lost his mojo and he needs to get his enthusiasm back, and so I didn’t think he’d take that, unless there’s another deal that goes with it, a ‘you do this and then down the road we’ll do that’.
“I’m sure he’s had six months of sim work and not being a Formula 1 driver and that will have hit him very hard. And so I can fully understand the attraction of being one of the 20 on the grid.
“My overriding feeling here is Formula 1 feels a better place when Daniel Ricciardo’s on the grid, and I hated seeing him having to loiter around all weekend.”
Ricciardo will make his first grand prix start since Abu Dhabi last December in Hungary next weekend before the Belgian Grand Prix rounds out the opening half of the year.
Brundle reckons Ricciardo should be afforded a “one or two-race” period to enable him to get comfortable within his new surroundings and a troublesome AT04 car.
However, he declares the pressure will then instantly be on the eight-time F1 winner to regularly out-perform new team-mate Yuki Tsunoda to reinvigorate his F1 career.
“It’s high risk for Daniel in what is probably the slowest car on the grid,” Brundle summarised.
“He’s got to beat Tsunoda, he’s absolutely got to. He needs to edge him in qualy and in the races, that’s an absolute given as an expectation.
“Maybe he can outperform that car, if he can massively outperform that car and get it somewhere near the top 10 and keep it there in the race, then maybe it will be his salvation in that respect.”
Meanwhile, de Vries’ F1 venture lasted only 10 races before he felt the wrath of Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko following a wretched start to his debut campaign.
Brundle concedes he feels sorry for the Dutchman, who he considers to have now become a part of “a long line of Red Bull drivers that have pretty much gone through the mangle and not come out very well.”
“He’s not even had half a season, in what is quite clearly a difficult car – his team-mate’s a lot more experienced,” he continued.
“Has it gone well for Nyck? No. Quite clearly to me, desperation has crept into his driving in recent races, quite a lot of desperation.
“He’s got into some skirmishes he shouldn’t have been in, and it’s just been really sad to watch because I think he’s better than that.
“I feel sorry for him that he hasn’t had more time and more support.”