Despite reports suggesting that Daniel Ricciardo might make a comeback in his AlphaTauri car as early as the Qatar Grand Prix in early October, AlphaTauri’s head of trackside engineering, Jonathan Eddolls, has clarified that the Australian driver’s return may not happen anytime soon.
His absence from the racing scene could extend until the United States Grand Prix toward the end of October. However, even though he hasn’t participated in a single Grand Prix since the end of July this year, it’s less likely that his time away from the sport will impact AlphaTauri’s driver lineup for the 2024 season.
Ricciardo decided to temporarily retire from racing after participating in just two Grand Prix events this year. This decision was prompted by an injury to his left metacarpal sustained during practice for the Dutch Grand Prix. Eddolls, in his recent statement, suggests that Ricciardo’s comeback to racing is still a distant prospect.
While Ricciardo was present in Singapore last weekend to assist the team with their engineering processes, his recovery hasn’t progressed swiftly enough to allow him to participate in the upcoming races in Japan or Qatar. Both Red Bull and Ricciardo are cautious about rushing his return from therapy. Before he gets back behind the wheel of the AT04, there will be a series of simulator sessions to evaluate his recovery progress.
Eddolls conveyed the following to The Race:
“The recovery is going well.
“We’ve got some simulator work planned before a return.
“From our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early.
“The worst thing would be to come back before it is properly healed and cause any issues.”
“AlphaTauri and Red Bull want to avoid a scenario where Ricciardo enters a free practice session only to retire again at the end of it. In such a situation, they would have to bring back Liam Lawson once again.” Consequently, the 34-year-old driver will complete his simulator sessions by the start of the Qatar race week to assess the extent of his recovery. Eddolls also added:
“The simulator’s a very good representation of the car, all of the loads, etc.
“I think the final decision is more than likely going to come from him rather than from us.
“He will know better than anyone how’s the pain, how’s the recovery?
“We’re not putting him under pressure to come back. We’ve got three good drivers at the moment so there’s no big rush, the focus is on making a full recovery so that when he comes back, it’s not even talked about.”
“While it might be almost certain that Ricciardo’s contract extension is imminent, which could be one of the reasons why he isn’t rushing back to race, Lawson might have made it seem like the race for the 2024 driver lineup is still open.” On the other hand, Yuki Tsunoda is also expecting his contract extension to materialize soon, possibly during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.