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Daniel Ricciardo making 'high-risk' return at AlphaTauri is 'great' for Formula 1, says Martin Brundle

Daniel Ricciardo has joined AlphaTauri on loan from Red Bull until the end of the 2023 Formula 1 season; Nyck de Vries was sacked by AlphaTauri just 10 races into his rookie season; watch Ricciardo's return at the Hungarian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 from July 21-23

CIRCUIT GILLES-VILLENEUVE, CANADA - JUNE 16: Daniel Ricciardo, Third Driver, Red Bull Racing during the Canadian GP at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Friday June 16, 2023 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images)
Image: Daniel Ricciardo will make his return to the F1 grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix

Martin Brundle says he is "surprised" that Daniel Ricciardo has chosen to join AlphaTauri, but the Australian's return to the Formula 1 grid is "great" for the sport. 

Red Bull announced on Tuesday that Ricciardo has been loaned out from his position of third driver for the world championship leaders to replace Nyck de Vries at their junior team for the remainder of the 2023 campaign.

The move came as a surprise to many, given AlphaTauri are last in the constructors' standings and Ricciardo had said on several occasions he was only interested in returning in a competitive car.

The eight-time Grand Prix winner has endured a challenging spell since leaving Red Bull in 2018, spending two seasons each at Renault and McLaren before being released a year before the end of his contract by the latter at the end of 2022.

"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.

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"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.

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"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 'absolutely' must beat Tsunoda

Ricciardo will be up against new team-mate Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri, with the Japanese driver having comprehensively outperformed De Vries in an impressive start to the season.

Despite Tsunoda's form, Brundle says that while he would give Ricciardo a "one- or two-race" grace period to adjust to the AlphaTauri, the 34-year-old must "absolutely" outperform his team-mate to prove he has a future in F1

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"It's high risk for Daniel in what is probably the slowest car on the grid," Brundle said.

"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."

Confirmation of Ricciardo's return came after he had spent Tuesday morning testing Red Bull's dominant RB19 at Silverstone.

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A statement from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested Ricciardo's "extremely competitive" showing during the tyre test had been a significant factor behind his move to AlphaTauri.

"You can do your time all day long on a track that's rubbered in from the Grand Prix, it's not representative, and I can't believe that's what made their mind up," Brundle said.

"Quite clearly, the fact he was in the car in the first place tells you all you need to. Why was he in it otherwise? They've not exactly hidden the fact that they were getting to the end of the line with De Vries."

'Desperation crept into De Vries' driving'

Amid the excitement at the hugely-popular Ricciardo's return, there is also major disappointment for De Vries at his rookie F1 season coming to an end after just 10 races.

The Dutchman has struggled to get to grips with the difficult AlphaTauri and is one of just two drivers yet to score a point this season.

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Nyck de Vries clips the wall and is forced to retire from the Azerbaijan GP

"I'm sad for Nyck because I know he's better than that," Brundle said. "People will often hear me say on commentary, it's hard to get to Formula 1, but it's even harder to stay there. Because on your way up, you're all potential, and then suddenly you've got reality, and there's no hiding from that.

"He's not even had half a season, in what is quite clearly a difficult car - his team-mate's a lot more experienced.

"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."

De Vries has waited a long time for his opportunity in F1 having served as a Mercedes reserve driver for several years, before appearing to prove his pedigree when claiming ninth as a late substitute for Williams at last year's Italian Grand Prix.

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A red flag was brought out in qualifying as De Vries crashed his AlphaTauri into the barriers

However, as has been the case with numerous hopefuls in the Red Bull system over the previous two decades, De Vries was unable to deliver.

"We saw what he did as a super-sub at Williams, and in the end it hasn't started well," Brundle said.

"He's one of a long line of Red Bull drivers that have pretty much gone through the mangle and not come out very well.

"There's a long line - Sebastien Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniil Kvyat, you can add Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon - of young drivers who just got chewed up in that system.

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De Vries suffers a huge puncture in his AlphaTauri at the end of second practice at Silverstone

"And then then quite rightly, Christian and Helmut (Marko) can say, we play you, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and any number of world championships.

"It's a difficult environment and they'll tell you they won't have it any other way because it works in the end, but there's some casualties along the way and De Vries is another one of them.

"I think he deserved longer than that, but obviously you don't know how he performs within the team or within the technical meetings. We're not party to that. I feel sorry for him that he hasn't had more time and more support."

Watch Daniel Ricciardo's return to the Formula 1 grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix from July 21-23, with every session live on Sky Sports F1.

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