Formula 1: Two possible Red Bull drivers are not doing themselves any favors

Two candidates for the second Red Bull seat have not had ideal starts to the 2024 Formula 1 season, while a number of others have.
Daniel Ricciardo, RB, Formula 1
Daniel Ricciardo, RB, Formula 1 / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

Aside from recent speculation about whether three-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen will return to Red Bull in 2025, one of the main storylines of this year's silly season is what lies ahead for the second Red Bull seat, which has been occupied by Sergio Perez since 2021.

Perez finished in second place behind Verstappen in the world championship standings last year, but during an 18-race stretch in which Verstappen won 17 times, Perez only managed three runner-up finishes. His contract is set to expire at the end of the 2024 season, and he is viewed by many as being on the hot seat.

The 34-year-old Mexican has certainly helped his cause to start the 2024 season, finishing behind Verstappen in second place in both the Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

But a couple of potential Perez replacements have not.

When he signed as Red Bull's third driver last year following a rough two-year stint with McLaren which saw the team buy out the final year of his contract, Daniel Ricciardo had his eye on making a return to the team he left following the 2018 season.

Ricciardo was called upon to replace the struggling Nyck de Vries at Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri last year, and he retained the seat for 2024 at the team now known as RB. But in both races to start the season, he has been beaten by teammate Yuki Tsunoda in both qualifying and in the Grand Prix.

Yes, he did finish one spot higher than Tsunoda in Bahrain, but that was due to a late team orders call; Tsunoda drove the better race. He also spun out late in Saudi Arabia. As much as fans may not want to admit it, Ricciardo simply might not be as good as he once was.

And the other is Tsunoda. Tsunoda has indeed outperformed Ricciardo, but his temper tantrum after the Bahrain Grand Prix team orders is not indicative of a driver ready to land a top seat -- and quite frankly, neither is his performance since he joined the team in 2021.

In races they both competed, Ricciardo outscored Tsunoda last year, meaning that the only teammate Tsunoda has ever beaten head-to-head is the scoreless de Vries. Keep in mind, Pierre Gasly consistently outperformed Tsunoda in 2021 and 2022, and Gasly was demoted halfway into his first season with Red Bull due to his own struggles.

And while his qualifying pace has netted him starting positions of 11th and ninth to start the season, Tsunoda has not finished higher than 14th in a Grand Prix.

If it comes down to Perez, Ricciardo, and Tsunoda, you'd have to question why Red Bull would look to fix what isn't broken.

Other possible replacements candidates include Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr., who is set to be replaced by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton after the 2024 season, and former Red Bull driver Alexander Albon, even though he is reportedly under contract at Williams through 2025. And don't forget Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

Sainz, a former member of the Red Bull Junior Team who competed for sister team Toro Rosso (now RB) for the first few years of his career, finished in third place behind the Red Bull duo in this year's season opener in Bahrain before being sidelined with appendicitis in Saudi Arabia.

Next. Formula 1: Ferrari's reserve driver is outscoring 5 entire teams combined. Formula 1: Ferrari's reserve driver is outscoring 5 entire teams combined. dark

Albon continues to get the most out of his equipment at Williams and has taken some pretty significant steps forward since being replaced by Perez in 2021. Alonso also continues to look like a two-time world champion, consistently outperforming teammate Lance Stroll at Aston Martin.