F1 2024: Liam Lawson contract clause puts pressure on Daniel Ricciardo, vacant Red Bull seat, latest news ahead of Chinese Grand Prix


Pressure continues to build on Daniel Ricciardo, with Red Bull senior advisor Helmut Marko not ruling out the idea of swapping the Australian for Kiwi Liam Lawson in-season.

In fact, Red Bull has an added incentive to do so after Marko revealed a clause in Lawson’s contract which makes the idea of getting him in the car sooner even more attractive.

Speaking to Austrian publication Kleine Zeitung, Marko said Lawson is “contractually entitled to drive for another team if he doesn’t get a cockpit with us in 2025”.

There were suggestions last year that Lawson had accepted the Red Bull/RB reserve driver role for 2024 with a guarantee that he would get a race seat in 2025.

Marko’s recent revelation, however, indicates while part of that is true it does not necessarily mean the seat would be at RB or Red Bull.

Every practice, qualifying session and race from the 2024 FIA Formula One World Championship™ LIVE in 4K. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

Danny Ric remains hopeful in Formula 1 future

However, Ricciardo’s underwhelming start to the season has seemingly put him at threat of losing his seat to Lawson, with Marko adding it would be “exciting” to see the Kiwi get a drive this year.

“We obviously have in Liam Lawson as reserve driver a strong driver in the team, who is contractually free to race for another team if he doesn’t get a seat with us in 2025,” Marko told the publication.

“In this regard it would of course be exciting for us if we could see him already in F1 this year, to give ourselves an even clearer picture.

“But this is a complex topic, one must wait and see how it goes.”

So, nothing definitive but still more pressure on Ricciardo, who Marko went on to add has fallen short of expectations and that teammate Yuki Tsunoda has him “under control”.

“The expectation was that he had to be clearly faster than Yuki if he wanted to have any hope of getting the seat at Red Bull,” said Marko.

“That hasn’t been the case so far, even if it was close [in Japan]. We’ll see how that develops.”

Ricciardo was viewed at the start of the season as a possible candidate to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull next year, although it seems at this point the question is whether he will even keep his current seat.

Speaking of Perez, Marko also said Red Bull is in discussions with outgoing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz about the possibility of competing alongside world champion Max Verstappen.

“We are speaking with him, he is driving his best season in Formula 1,” Marko said.

“But he has a lucrative offer from Audi, which we cannot match or beat.”

Sainz was quizzed on his future ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, telling reporters his “best options are still open” without giving away too much.

He did though add that for 2025, driving in a “competitive car” would be “very appealing”, something which Red Bull could obviously provide.

Ricciardo under pressure with Lawson looming

As for 2026 though, when Audi enters Formula One with its Sauber takeover, Sainz said it is a “coin toss” and too hard to forecast what position teams will be in given the impending regulation overhaul.

“It’s impossible to know right now who is going to get it right for 2026,” he said.

“So even when I take the decision for where I’m going to be [in] 2026 [or] 2027 – it doesn’t matter how much you talk to teams, how much they sell you [on] how good they’re doing with the engine – the reality is no one knows.

“If someone wins in 2026, in my opinion it’s not because of smart decision-making, but because you’re just in the right place and the right time.”

HOW HAMILTON IS SHUTTING OUT THE ‘S***-TALKING’ CRITICS

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said Thursday he was shutting out the noise surrounding his move to Ferrari next year, saying he didn’t need “vindicating” that it was right for him.

The Formula One veteran, 39, shocked Formula One in February when he said he would leave Mercedes at the end of 2024 after 12 years to join the Italian team.

Hamilton was asked Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix if Ferrari’s strong start to the season — they have been consistently closest to the dominant Red Bulls — meant the decision to switch had been justified.

“I don’t feel like I need my decision vindicating,” Hamilton told reporters.

“I know what was right for me, and that hasn’t changed since the moment that I made the decision.

“There’s not been a moment where I questioned it. And I’m not swayed by other people’s comments.”

Hamilton said he had to endure criticism before when he left McLaren to join Mercedes in 2012.

“Even today, there’s people continuing to talk s*** and it will continue on for the rest of the year,” he said.

“And I’ll have to just do what I did the previous time.

“Only you can know what’s right for you and it will be an exciting time for me.”

‘NO REASON TO LEAVE’: VERSTAPPEN DENIES RED BULL QUESTIONS

Max Verstappen again publicly committed his long-term future to Red Bull on Thursday, saying that as long as he was happy there was “no reason to leave”.

There has been speculation the triple world champion could move to Mercedes to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton next year after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was accused of inappropriate conduct towards a woman colleague.

Horner was cleared of any wrongdoing ahead of the season-opener in Bahrain but the off-track scandal rumbled on for weeks.

The Dutchman Verstappen is signed with Red Bull until 2028 but suggested earlier in the season that he would consider leaving if the team parted company with long-time mentor Helmut Marko.

Verstappen’s father Jos has claimed that Red Bull faced being “torn apart” if Horner remained in position.

However, the paddock chatter in Shanghai this week has been firmly back on racing, something that pleased Verstappen.

Fernando Alonso signs new with with Aston Martin

“After 2021 I signed a long deal with the team. The only thing I said from the beginning was that I wanted to have a quiet, peaceful environment,” Verstappen told reporters.

“Lately we have been talking about the car, so I am very happy about that already.

“That’s also how it should be. And of course as long as I am happy with the team, there has never been a reason to leave.”

Verstappen is chasing a fourth victory in five races in 2024 but admitted the weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix will be an unknown quantity.

The Formula One circus is back at the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time in five years with a sprint race on Saturday.

“With the new cars of course there will be a little bit of the unknown,” said Verstappen. “Of course it is the same for everyone.”

There is only one practice session on Friday before sprint qualifying, so Verstappen said it was important for the team to get the set-up nailed early.

“We need to have a good FP1 where we don’t have to fine-tune too much on the car. That will really help,” he said.

“Time will tell, I’m not too worried about it.”

Originally published as Red Bull contract clause spells trouble for Daniel Ricciardo

Read related topics:Daniel Ricciardo