Daniel Ricciardo is believed to be the ‘perfect' partner for Max Verstappen at Red Bull at the end of 2024, while Sergio Perez is under pressure as Formula 1 prepares to return from its summer break.
Former three-time Le Mans class winner David Kennedy told PlanetF1 that the Australian is perfectly placed to step back from the junior squad and was surprised his underperforming predecessor, Dutchman Nyck De Vries, wasn't replaced sooner.
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“I'm surprised he wasn't there sooner,” Kennedy said.
“I think his level when he was running as a teammate with Verstappen was really respectable. I think there might have been other issues at play, but when it comes to a high-performing driver, Daniel is a front runner.”
However, Kennedy claimed that Ricciardo needed more time as he returned to the sport after a six-month hiatus.
“There's always the problem that when you come back from a break you have a little bit of a head start. So there should be a question mark over him,” he said.
With Ricciardo being Verstappen's teammate from 2016 to 2018 and surpassing him over the course of their time together, Kennedy believes Ricciardo is best placed to work with the two-time world champion, who will almost certainly secure his third consecutive title this year Year.
“It's the hardest job in the world to be a teammate with someone with such outstanding ability,” he said.
“In my experience, there are very, very few who could handle it. That reminds me of Eddie Irvine. Eddie was reportedly sitting next to one of the greatest racers of all time [Michael Schumacher]. And was able to go out and really push every time and get within a whisper of Schumacher.
“I think this is a really difficult situation now [Red Bull] find themselves in it and would Daniel be the man sitting in there?
“I always thought he was such a solid player. He may not have the magic dust like Verstappen, but he's so incredibly close that he would be the perfect teammate. Someone who is badass and can accept that someone can beat them by a fraction.
“Because if you're a smart racer, you can still win races.”
Verstappen has earned a reputation as a notoriously difficult teammate, having had four different teammates since replacing Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull in 2016.
Ricciardo's return to the grid is a talking point in the F1 world after he was granted a lifeline to drive for Red Bull's feeder team AlphaTauri for the remainder of the 2023 season.
He finished 13th and 16th in his last two races and drove well, if not unremarkably, in one of the slowest cars on the grid.
AlphaTauri is clearly not the end game for Ricciardo, who is aiming to return to a full-time spot with a top team like Red Bull, where he achieved the best results of his career.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner wasn't afraid to put pressure on Sergio Perez and said Ricciardo's best bet was to seek the Mexican's seat for the 2025 season after his contract expires.
Ricciardo has said a return to Red Bull would be a “fairytale” way to end his career, but it begs the inevitable question: has he just wasted the last five years getting back to where he was as Robin von Verstappens Batman was?
Verstappen is rewriting the record books this season and will win his third consecutive drivers' title in his Red Bull rocket ship.
Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, commentator David Croft said Verstappen's Red Bull team-mates almost have to accept that they will be the team's second-biggest driver and have no chance of winning the championship.
Croft said: “It's a weird paradox that to be a successful driver with Max you have to accept that you're number two, but to be the best driver you never accept that you're number two , and that's what you are.” to win in it. Isn't that impossible?”
Co-commentator Karun Chandhok, who has contested 11 F1 races, replied: “In Checo's situation he has to accept that he is up against one of the most natural drivers to ever sit in a Formula 1 car.”
Chandhok pointed out that while Red Bull currently dominates F1, having two strong drivers will be crucial as other teams start to get a grip on the new era of regulations and catch up.
“For me, all of this is about being okay in the moment, isn't it? Max wins the Constructors Championship all by himself,” continued Chandhok.
“But the reality is, if Mercedes and McLaren and Aston and Ferrari can do it, and the natural order of things is that we're going to start to see a convergence with stability of the rules, that's just how Formula One has always been, they will do the same.”