Daniel Ricciardo set to return to Red Bull as team's third driver for 2023 Formula 1 season
Daniel Ricciardo was left without a seat for 2023 after having his contract with McLaren terminated a year early; the Australian spent five seasons with Red Bull from 2014-2018 watch the Abu Dhabi GP all weekend live on Sky Sports F1 - with the race at 1pm on Sunday
Last Updated: 19/11/22 8:37am
Daniel Ricciardo is set to return to Red Bull as the team's third driver for the Formula 1 2023 season, though Christian Horner insists Sergio Perez's job is safe as Max Verstappen's team-mate.
It is expected that Ricciardo will be a development driver, with Liam Lawson the official reserve.
The 33-year-old Australian was left without a place on the grid for next season after having his contract with McLaren terminated a year early, following two largely disappointing campaigns with the British team.
Ricciardo was linked with several seats at the back of the grid, but indicated he would prefer to join a top team as a reserve driver with a view to returning in a more competitive car in 2024.
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Speculation in the paddock in recent weeks suggested Ricciardo could join Mercedes, but Red Bull now seem to have swooped in for Ricciardo, who won seven of his eight F1 races driving for the team between 2014 and 2018.
"Ricciardo will be our third driver," Marko, a Red Bull advisor, told Sky Sports in Germany.
"We have so many sponsors, we have to do show runs, so of course he's one of the most high-profile and best-suited."
Marko said in the same interview that Lawson, who drove for Red Bull in first practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, would be Red Bull's reserve.
Ricciardo's role could therefore be development driver, although Red Bull have yet to confirm the move with an announcement.
On Saturday, team boss Horner said "nothing had been signed" but hinted that confirmation would be soon.
"Daniel's a big character, it's been disappointing to see his performance this year but he's still one of the biggest names in Formula 1," he stated.
"Just with the demands on race drivers these days, from a marketing perspective alone, we're an active team and do very many show runs and events, so to have a driver of Daniel's profile and history with the team is only an asset for us.
"It means he keeps in touch with Formula 1 and we'll obviously be using him on the simulator as well when he attends events."
Horner, though, insisted Ricciardo would not be replacing Perez as a full-time driver with the team, even if he rediscovered his form of old. Perez has a contract until 2024 at Red Bull but his future has been speculated upon, particularly after the team orders dispute with Verstappen.
"No, Daniel's contract is very specific," said Horner. "We have a contract with Checo [Perez] for the next two years. The partnership of Max and Checo has been phenomenal for us."
Coming into the Abu Dhabi weekend Ricciardo, who is being replaced at McLaren by fellow Australian Oscar Piastri, said "progress was being made" with his 2023 move and that "hopefully you can see my good looks again next year".
"Mentally I'm not treating it like it's going to be my last ever race, but it could be," he told reporters on Thursday.
"I know that nothing's guaranteed in the future so I'm going out to enjoy it, I'm not going to get too, let's say, emotional about the thought that 'oh, is it the last one or not?'.
"I do want to enjoy it and take it for what it is."
Ricciardo will have a three-place grid penalty for Sunday's race after causing a collision with Haas's Kevin Magnussen at the previous round in Brazil last Sunday.
"I normally go better when I have penalties so I actually asked for a five-place penalty, but three will do so there you go," he joked.
Hill: Ricciardo could end up with starting seat at Red Bull
With the news swirling of Ricciardo's Red Bull return, Sky Sports' Damon Hill thinks that it is a clever choice that could end with him in a starting seat once again.
"It could be quite an interesting one if you think about the problems they have apparently had between Max and Sergio," said Hill.
"Let's say the toys go out of the pram and there is some sort of fall out there, Daniel Ricciardo could be in prime position.
"It is his home, and he does owe a lot to Red Bull so he will be very keen to be back in that fold.
"What is it about the prodigal son who returns?
"He could be in a good position coming back and having learned a lot in other places.
"It can be that you can improve having been somewhere else then returning to the place you started.
"I am sure that Sergio's contract is watertight, and he will be there for a long time but if relationships deteriorate, sometimes it becomes unworkable, and the suspicion is Max has quite a lot of power in that team."