Tsunoda and Ricciardo “the absolute best combination” for RB in 2024 F1 season — Mekies

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2024 will see Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo as the driver line-up at RB F1. Despite a hugely impressive cameo from Liam Lawson during last season while the Australian was on the sidelines following his unfortunately injury picked up at Zandvoort, Ricciardo and Tsunoda got the nod for this season.

After explaining how “a key target of the project to be able to bring young drivers [through] to the Red Bull Racing team” and the drivers are on “loan” from them, team boss Laurent Mekies shared during the Bahrain test how pleased he is with the driver pairing he has.

“I think this year for us turns out to be the absolute best combination with the combination of Daniel and Yuki. So we will certainly use them a lot to try to go to the next steps.”

The Japanese driver will embark on his fourth season in four days from now. He had a tremendously difficult 2021 where he made a number of errors and failed to get anywhere near the pace of teammate Pierre Gasly, finishing 78 points behind the Frenchman and only outqualifying him once.

However, Tsunoda has made consistent steps forward over the last two campaigns. Such was his pace advantage over Nyck de Vries last year, the Dutchman was fired following the British Grand Prix. 

In his seven races together with Ricciardo after that, he outscored the 8-time Grand Prix winner 15-6. The 23-year-old also won out in the race and qualifying head-to-head.

Speaking about what he expects from Tsunoda this year, Mekies believes he will push Ricciardo and be the perfect complement to the Aussie.

The Frenchman also praised the Japanese driver for the sizeable improvement he’s made since his very challenging rookie year.

“Yuki is in his fourth year. It’s probably fair to say that each single year he has impressed the F1 world with his progression. I think nobody expected the steps. But the steps are there.

“We see him growing a lot. He’s fitting perfectly within the team.

“He’s a very good complement to Daniel who is bringing the experience, the technical sensitivity and the winning experience.

“Yuki has that natural speed. He has these steps that he is making.

“I think they will be pushing each other. It’s exactly what we want. At the moment it couldn’t be better.”

Pushed on whether he thinks he’ll have to manage the dynamic of Ricciardo and Tsunoda aiming for the Red Bull Racing drive next year as Sergio Perez is out of contract, Mekies is pleased that both of his drivers are focusing on the new project and helping the team.

“You know, I think right now, Daniel and Yuki, they are exactly in the mindset that Peter [Bayer] and I described. So they are in this new team adventure. That’s how they look at it.

“It’s a special new team, because it’s a new team that comes with that fantastic history and fantastic base of talent in Faenza and in Bicester. They look at it like that.

“So they have proved this, that they are not chasing the ultimate balance and lap time to beat each other here. They are not even asking for it.

“They completely get that we are here to try to prepare that step forward, that breakthrough. In order to get that breakthrough, there is no shortcut. You need to get the basics right.

“They are just sticking with the test mindset. That’s where they are right now.

“Where they will be halfway through the season, I don’t know. We can discuss at that moment.”