‘First I’ve heard’: Daniel Ricciardo comes clean on Red Bull axe ultimatum

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Aussie F1 star Daniel Ricciardo has insisted he is focusing on himself rather than the noise amid speculation he’s set to be replaced by Liam Lawson.

It’s just three races into the season but the results have been far from what the 34-year-old Aussie would have hoped for after falling 0-3 in qualifying and 1-2 in races to teammate Yuki Tsunoda in 2024.

Even Ricciardo’s head-to-head win was marred by a team orders drama where Tsunoda refused to swap positions until it was too late for the Aussie to utilise his newer tyres.

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But 22-year-old New Zealand wunderkind Lawson is waiting in the wings with reports last week that the team had issued Ricciardo an ultimatum of perform in the next two races in Japan and China or be replaced.

“Should Ricciardo fail to improve over the next two Grand Prix in Japan and China respectively, Red Bull will perform a swap that sees Lawson likely installed in the Racing Bulls seat for Miami and remain with the team for the rest of the season,” the New Zealand Herald report stated.

However, Planet F1 reported that Ricciardo “is in no danger of losing his seat”.

Lawson’s management team have also come forward to say Red Bull have not advised the youngster of any such move.

Daniel Ricciardo risk of F1 exile

Those who have been around F1 for a while know the rumour mill is in constant action, but that also teams will deny and deny until they pull the trigger.

But for Ricciardo, the talk is just that for now and much more pressing is turning his season around.

“In terms of the noise, people tell me like in the media, they’re like, ‘Oh, so and so said’ – it’s the first I’ve heard,” Ricciardo told Motorsport.com.

“It’s obviously no disrespect to (the media), but I know that I’m on this little process or journey at the moment and I just need to focus on myself.

“If I let any of the noise in, it’s going to kind of distract me from the path I’m on.

“I haven’t let any of that negative stuff creep in.”

The season began with such optimism for Ricciardo, who was looking to press for the seat he once held in the Red Bull team with pressure put on Sergio Perez.

The signs were good in the pre-season testing but both Ricciardo and Tsunoda have struggled for pace this season with Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko taking aim at both drivers before the Australian Grand Prix, calling them both “too slow”.

It was Marko who sparked the rumour mill that Ricciardo was firming to replace Perez, saying the Aussie had a “long-term contract” with the team, ruling him out of the Mercedes seat to be vacated by Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who has been critical of Ricciardo in recent times, claimed Marko’s comments had somewhat destabilised the team.

Speaking via Online Betting Guide about the disparity arising between qualifying and race pace for some teams, Villeneuve said Ricciardo hadn’t dealt well with the pressure created by Marko’s comments.

“Before the start Ricciardo was doing a big media push about how his mojo was back. Marko was saying there might be a Red Bull seat available,” Villeneuve said.

“That has created an issue inside where the drivers are not driving as smoothly and calmly as they were last year. That affects the way races unfold.

“There are a lot of internal battles going on which all started with Lewis’s move. On the chess board that was the key. That broke the log jam. People are a bit more hype and on the edge which is probably affecting a lot of the driving as well because they can see a possible prize.”

Ricciardo said he had been surprised by the lack of pace in the RB and that he was focused on keeping his eye on the prize.

“I didn’t expect to start the season like this,” Ricciardo said.

“Budapest last year, I drove the car a day before, and then I outqualify Yuki and have a really strong race – and with no knowledge.

“And then having a full pre-season and all that, and all the races last year, I honestly thought that this year we would start a lot stronger.

“So there is that which I don’t understand – not only me, but a few people are wondering why.

“I think the important thing is that I stay on course.

“It’s not that my head is filled with nonsense or anything. I honestly feel good.

“And just unfortunately, the results haven’t made me feel awesome. But deep down behind the wheel, I do feel good and excited and just want to keep racing.

“And I’m sure I’ll find a bit more in myself, and I still believe maybe we’ll find a little something on the car.”

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