Daniel Ricciardo replacement rumours shut down as ‘nonsense’ by Red Bull supremo Helmut Marko

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Red Bull supremo Helmut Marko has described rumours Daniel Ricciardo could be replaced at the next F1 race this weekend as “nonsense”.

Ricciardo is driving for his F1 future this season and finally showed some promising signs with a fourth-place finish in the Sprint Race in Miami, securing his first championship points of the season.

But he struggled in qualifying, meaning he had to start from the back of the grid for the Grand Prix proper and was never in the hunt in Miami.

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Ricciardo’s next assignment is to beat his VISA Cash App RB teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who is regularly outqualifying the Aussie and enjoying the most consistent year of his career so far.

As F1 season heads to Europe this weekend, there is a growing sense of urgency around the driver market with several drivers out of contract beyond this season and plenty of young talent waiting in the wings.

Ferrari academy driver Ollie Bearman and Mercedes teenager Kimi Antonelli are tipped to be elevated to the F1 grid, while Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson is desperate to get a full-time drive.

Liam Lawson is desperate to get a full-time F1 gig. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
But he won’t be replacing Daniel Ricciardo this weekend. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Rumours surfaced on social media Lawson could replace Ricciardo at this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy.

But Marko, who is responsible for Red Bull’s junior development, said speculation of the sensational driver swap was ill-founded.

“The rumours that Ricciardo will be replaced by Liam Lawson at Imola are nonsense,” Marko wrote in his column for Speedweek.

“Liam’s manager from New Zealand was there and, apparently, he has certain dreams and they are made known through some media, including from New Zealand.

“Nothing at all is planned in Imola.

“But, of course, we will look at this in the future.”

Marko has shown he is happy to pull the trigger on a mid-season sacking — just last year he only needed to see one fast lap in testing from Ricciardo to ditch Nyck De Vries and give the veteran his seat at AlphaTauri.

The 81-year-old was pleased with Ricciardo’s performance in Miami.

“Daniel also delivered a remarkable performance in the Sprint,” Marko said.

“Fourth place was a sensation and he set the fastest time in sector three.

“This sector consists mainly of slow corners. If you drive precisely there, you will gain an incredible amount of time.

“And if you make a mistake, it’s doubly punishing because of the slow speed.”

Liam Lawson is one of a handful of youngsters desperate for an F1 drive. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Lawson filled in for Ricciardo for five races last season while he recovered from a broken hand, and the New Zealander beat Tsunoda in all but one race and secured his first top 10 finish in sweltering conditions in Singapore.

On the most recent season of Drive to Survive, the 22-year-old expressed his frustration at Tsunoda and Ricciardo getting full-time drives at VISA Cash App RB.

“It’s tough knowing that I don’t get the seat even though I’ve beaten a guy that’s getting a seat,” Lawson said, referencing Tsunoda.

“I don’t know how to f***ing answer that honestly because it’s meant to be me, so …

“Obviously it’s frustrating. There’s a lot of things going on to be honest. I think emotionally and mentally, pretty draining yeah.”

“But to be honest, it’s been hard to actually enjoy it,” Lawson said of his successful stint for AlphaTauri.

“Until I have that security or having that contract for a full-time seat, it’s hard to really enjoy it.”

Lawson is lurking over Ricciardo’s shoulder in more ways than one.Source: FOX SPORTS

Lawson’s services haven’t been required yet this season, but the image of him lurking behind Ricciardo in the garage after the Aussie crashed out of the Japanese Grand Prix in April was poetic.

“I think Daniel knows that the potential is there, but I’m sure he’s probably expected to step it up,” Lawson said earlier this year.

“Obviously this year it’s the first in a while where everything is exactly the same (with drivers). It makes it very tough to get a seat when there are multiple guys. I feel like I’m ready but there’s a lot of other guys there also.

“Ultimately my goal is to get back in that seat as soon as possible.”

Last month Kiwi motorsport legend Greg Murphy, who won the Bathurst 1000 four times, said Lawson was a victim of F1 prioritising popularity and commercialism over driving talent.

“It’s (F1) more about drama now than competition. Which for me as a purist, I’m really not enjoying so much,” Murphy told SENZ.

“The reality of Formula 1 is it’s such a commercial game these days – what makes sense is not the norm. Common sense says Liam Lawson should be driving one of these cars and doing the job, but the commercial realities of everything say it different.

“He has to be taking one of these seats before too long.

“I know how frustrated he is. Liam’s sitting there not doing a lot this year other than being a reserve driver, and that’s just not right. He’s got such talent and so much to offer, to be sitting on the sidelines is almost criminal.”

Peter Bayer, CEO of Visa Cash App RB, Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko and Liam Lawson in Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Murphy said being from a small market country was hurting Lawson, and Red Bull were only being patient with Ricciardo because of his popularity.

“Daniel Ricciardo has a huge following, he’s loved in Formula 1 – his personality is likeable, he’s a character, and Red Bull love him because F1 love him, so they’ve aligned him again with the brand,” he said.

“They all want him to be better, to be faster, and they’re making excuses left, right, and centre for his performances in the hope that (in) the next race he’s going to do this miraculous result and he’s back!

“It’s all rhetoric, it’s all storyline, it’s a little bit fake – but that’s where we’ve gotten with Formula 1. If you watch Drive to Survive, it’s sensationalised beyond belief. It has lost its way and its sense of reality, and it’s a shame.

“There’s so much at stake, so much money, there’s too much focus on that and not enough on the sporting side and that’s where Liam has unfortunately found himself.

“He’s in that no man’s land where everyone knows he should be there, but he’s from New Zealand and we only sell a few cans of Red Bull every year versus what they do in Mexico or Australia.

“Unfortunately, that stuff by the looks of it, is more important to Red Bull than actually having another driver that can finish second to Max Verstappen every single race that Max wins.”

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix begins on Sunday night at 11pm AEST.

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