The Visa Cash App RB team has already raised quite a few eyebrows with its new name, before the newly named team has even driven a single meter. However, the former AlphaTauri showed an upward trend in performance towards the end of the 2023 season, thanks to the increasing influence of sister team Red Bull Racing. Will the team be found more often in midfield in 2024 thanks to the closer collaboration with Red Bull? We discuss it with editor Lieke Jacobs.
Red Bull’s sister team, then still called AlphaTauri, seemed to be getting back on its feet towards the end of the 2023 season after a turbulent season. During the previous season, the team had to make do with not two but four drivers, which meant that stability and consistency were not always available. Nyck de Vries, whose results were disappointing during the first ten races, had to leave the field halfway through the season for Daniel Ricciardo. However, Ricciardo was again on the sidelines after two races, after sustaining an injury during free practice in Zandvoort. Liam Lawson replaced the Australian and immediately achieved good results.
At the United States Grand Prix, Ricciardo made a comeback for the second time, and the final races of the season delivered good results for Red Bull’s sister team. The then AlphaTauri increasingly followed Red Bull’s philosophy, and they were therefore able to enter the top ten more consistently and gain enough points to move from 10th place to P8 in the constructors’ championship. In 2024, the partnership between Red Bull and Visa Cash App RB will include even more than just following the Red Bull philosophy, and part of the team will even move from Italy’s Faenza to Red Bull’s home city of Milton Keynes. Will Visa Cash App RB be able to continue its upward trend in 2024 now that the collaboration with Red Bull is becoming even closer?
“I think it can certainly be beneficial for Visa Cash App RB, provided they do it right,” editor Jacobs thinks about the collaboration. ‘The FIA is keeping a close eye on them, especially since Zak Brown shared his opinion on the state of affairs and possible benefits for Red Bull, so I think the sister team will have to be careful if they want to benefit from the collaboration. However, I think it would be beneficial for the Visa Cash App team to at least better maintain that connection with Red Bull, because I think they will be able to continue the upward trend of the second half of the 2023 season a lot more easily.’
‘The Australian has had to correct a major dent in his self-confidence’
Ricciardo hasn’t really had the chance in 2023 to prove he deserves his seat in the Visa Cash App RB team, having been left on the sidelines shortly after his first comeback. Two races after replacing De Vries, Ricciardo suffered an injury and was replaced by Lawson until the United States Grand Prix.
Lawson then performed so well as a replacement that the question arose as to why Ricciardo was put in that empty AlphaTauri seat. Ricciardo answered this during the Mexican Grand Prix by taking P4 during qualifying and gaining six points for his team during the main race. With much more experience in Formula 1 than Yuki Tsunoda, will Ricciardo manage to beat the Japanese in his first full year back?
“I secretly think that Tsunoda can still surprise in the upcoming season, but we cannot deny that experience is crucial and so I think that Ricciardo will ultimately come out on top,” Jacobs analyzes. ‘However, it will depend on a number of factors, because after his years at McLaren I think the Australian has had to correct a major dent in his self-confidence. I actually have no doubt that he will get back to his old self if he lasts a full season, but I think that the drive that Tsunoda has shown in recent months is certainly a factor to take into account.’
Tsunoda can take serious steps in 2024
Tsunoda’s performance last year went along with the general trend within the team itself. The Japanese started the 2023 season strongly, and also managed to collect important points for the team on a few occasions. However, halfway through the season, the then AlphaTauri faded away somewhat, and Tsunoda also experienced a dip in form. Following Red Bull’s philosophy has not only benefited the team itself, Tsunoda also performed better. The Japanese driver’s highlights included two P8 finishes, leading a number of laps during the race in Abu Dhabi, and taking his first fastest race lap during the United States Grand Prix.
Will the upward trend at Tsunoda continue in 2024? Jacobs thinks so. “I do think that Tsunoda will do better next year than last year, but I do not assume that this will always be reflected in the results,” says Jacobs. ‘In my opinion, the Japanese have already made great strides in the past three years, and I firmly believe in Franz Tost’s theory.’
The theory of former AlphaTauri team boss Tost means that a driver needs three years to reach the level in Formula 1, and according to Jacobs, Tsunoda now meets that requirement. ‘Tsunoda has now had three years under his belt and now knows the sport, the paddock and the team like the back of his hand, and I think he now has the right foundation to take serious steps. He will certainly develop as a driver in 2024, but I have my doubts about whether the results will reflect that image.’
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