RB are in the luxurious position of having three highly-skilled drivers available to them – and just two seats to fill for 2025. Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda are the incumbents, with reserve Liam Lawson waiting in the wings. The trio have a year to make their case for the future…
What do RB do for 2025?
For now, nothing. RB’s key focus in the coming months is solidifying their foundation of the new structure, which has seen a wealth of new senior personnel join the team, and relentlessly developing their car to meet Red Bull’s growing expectations.
Joining CEO Peter Bayer, who started last year, and Laurent Mekies, who began work on January 1, are new Chief Technical Officer Tim Goss and Racing Director Alan Permane, while work continues on the move of their UK base in Bicester to Red Bull’s Milton Keynes campus as they look to enhance synergies between the two teams who have the same owner.
They can let the drivers do the work regarding choosing the line-up. It’s up to Ricciardo and Tsunoda, then, to deliver the results on the track to convince the team that they should be in contention to stay for next season, while Lawson – who excelled as a stand-in for the injured Ricciardo last year – will be working hard to prove he deserves a shot every time he gets a chance to drive the car in testing.
“It’s great to have the next guy lining up who you know is already at a high level,” says Mekies of Lawson when discussing the driver situation. “It’s motivation to all of us. It’s like when you add talent into the team, you hire the best people you can and it gives value to people you have already. It is the same for Daniel, Yuki and Liam. The fact is, we have three incredibly talented drivers and it shows how serious we are about the project.”
What does Ricciardo do for 2025?
Ricciardo’s priority right now is to deliver the sorts of results that marked him out as a future world champion when he was at Red Bull. Having spent some time with him this pre-season, I get the feeling that, after a difficult time at McLaren that ended with him leaving the team before his contract was over, he feels like that ‘Red Bull-spec Daniel’ again.
“I’ve enjoyed getting back to this place,” he tells me. “Everyone has their path, this has been mine – and I’m happy to be back at this place now where I feel I have still got it. Ultimately, I still want to do it – and I want to do it because I feel like there’s more to prove.”
He describes this time in his career as his “second chapter” and while he’s already 34 years old, he still feels like there are multiple years ahead of him. That’s the strongest evidence we have that he thinks he’s back to his best, because he has absolutely no interest in hanging around to toil at the back and make up the numbers.
“Do I want to be racing into my 40s? Probably not, but the approach and the mindset is, if I prepare myself well and do everything I know I need to do, there’s no reason why I can’t be performing at a top level into my 40s,” he added.
“When I get to that age, I’ll cross that bridge and make those decisions. The mindset is put everything into this, so I can sustain this and can keep doing it. Like Fernando [Alonso, who is 42] is for example.”
Ricciardo remains of interest to sister team Red Bull, the Australian one of the leading contenders to replace Sergio Perez for next season if A) Red Bull deem Perez hasn’t stepped up enough from last year B) Ricciardo demonstrates at RB that he really is back to his best.
Even if that doesn’t happen, given the new world at RB – where the team are happy to have a blend of youth and experience – staying put at a team that are only going to get stronger in the short-term as they strengthen links with Red Bull, while building out their structure and investing more, makes sense.
And Alonso has proved that an experienced driver that delivers remains in demand no matter what their age – so should Ricciardo perform well this year, he’ll also almost certainly have some messages of interest from rivals given how many seats are available.
What does Tsunoda do for 2025?
Tsunoda is in a good spot heading in to 2024, the Japanese driver turning a corner in 2023 and delivering a consistent run of results, providing 17 of AlphaTauri’s 25 points.
He’s had a fight on his hands each season to get a renewal into the next campaign, but signing him for a fourth year was perhaps the most straightforward option for all parties involved.
Sources say Tsunoda retains the backing of Honda, which includes financial support, for this season, but as Mekies tells me, the Japanese driver is at the team “100%” because of his ability.
Heading into this season, he’s not thinking about the future – but rather just enjoying his racing and applying the tweaked mindset he used last year that helped him impress.
“I want more points than last year,” he tells me. “I want to keep lots of things I did last year. The progress from ‘22 to ‘23 was a big step, the progress and mindset I had – so I want to keep things from that. One of the main targets will be to be as calm as possible. I think I made a big step already, but still there’s room for improvement.”
Deliver a stronger season than the last and it’s difficult to see why the team would want to change him heading into next season.
Equally, if he continues to deliver and fellow Honda-backed racer Ayumu Iwasa doesn’t make a big step this season in Super Formula, sources say it’s likely Tsunoda will remain Honda’s number one priority with regards their junior programme.
Having invested lots of time and money in his career already – and with a continued desire to have a Japanese driver in F1 for the foreseeable future, especially given they are making a full return with Aston Martin in 2026 – they will do everything they can to keep him in the sport, whether that is at RB or another team on the grid.
It is believed to be a bit too early to know what his chances are of taking an Aston Martin seat in 2026, given the driver market for 2025 is so up in the air, but such a move is understood to be a possibility.
What does Lawson do for 2025?
Wait and see how things unfold. Lawson delivered one of the all-time great stand-in performances when he completed five Grands Prix for AlphaTauri in place of Ricciardo last year.
And the New Zealander can take heart from Red Bull Motorsport Adviser Helmut Marko saying that he will find a way to get Lawson on the grid sooner rather than later. That’s quite some backing to have.
For this season at least, he is expected to be on the sidelines but will be ready to go if required to step in, either as a substitute again or if one of the regular drivers don’t deliver to the extent that they are dropped.
That’s a pretty good position to be in – and if there aren’t any seats available at one of the two Red Bull teams for 2025, he knows Red Bull have form in helping reserves get a drive elsewhere – as they did just that with Alex Albon and Williams a few years ago.