Daniel Ricciardo to be replaced for Japanese Grand Prix practice

Daniel Ricciardo will step aside for first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix with Super Formula driver Ayumu Iwasa taking his place at RB.

Ricciardo is under pressure at Red Bull’s sister team, after failing to win a point in the opening three races as well as an underwhelming home grand prix in Australia over the weekend.

Reports that Ricciardo has two races to save his seat – with Liam Lawson waiting in the wings – have been denied by Red Bull, yet the Australian will now have only two practice sessions to get up to speed in Suzuka in two weeks’ time.

Red Bull’s long-term motorsport adviser Helmut Marko revealed after Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix that 22-year-old Japanese driver Iwasa will take part in FP1 at his home race.

“On Friday, we will use our young pilot Ayumu Iwasa in practice, an All-Nippon team,” Marko said in his column for Speedweek.

“Wha’s more, the Suzuka circuit should suit the Racing Bulls car.”

The move sees RB fulfil one of their two mandatory FP1 sessions which must be given to a rookie driver. This requires all 20 drivers to give up one FP1 session at any point during the season.

It means the first session at Suzuka will see RB line-up with two Japanese drivers, in the form of Iwasa and Yuki Tsunoda.

Daniel Ricciardo will step aside for first practice in Japan (Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo will step aside for first practice in Japan (Getty Images)

Ricciardo, an eight-time race winner, insisted he would not be “rattled” by a start to the season which sees him trail team-mate Tsunoda by six points in the championship standings.

“Obviously the weekend I would have loved to have gone better,” the 34-year-old said. “But I think we’ve just got to keep our eyes on the prize.

“It hasn’t been the best three races to start the season for sure and especially the preparation I had coming into the season, it’s definitely not where I expected to be.

“But it’s certainly not something that we’re going to get rattle by or anything. We’ve just got to stay on course and I’m sure we’ll find it.

The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is on 5-7 April.