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David Coulthard Says Red Bull Departure Did "Reputational Damage" For Daniel Ricciardo

David Coulthard Says Red Bull Departure Did "Reputational Damage" For Daniel Ricciardo
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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Eoin Harrington reporting from the Red Bull Racing Homerun in Milton Keynes.

An Irish Grand Prix is, regrettably, a pipe dream for motorsports fans in this part of the world. With the F1 calendar ever globalising, and a GP already taking place across the water in Silverstone, we can only imagine what a Grand Prix on the Emerald Isle would look like.

In January, however, Irish F1 fans can get a taste of what it might look like, when Red Bull bring their show run to the capital city. Dublin's North Wall Quay will be taken over by the Formula 1 world champions on January 15, with 13 time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard putting the 2011 Red Bull RB7 to the test along the streets.

We got the chance to speak to Coulthard at Red Bull's homecoming celebrations in Milton Keynes this weekend past. Coulthard spoke of his excitement to visit the streets of Dublin for a show run, his hopes for a three-way title battle in 2022, and his battlecry for Daniel Ricciardo to return to the fearsome beast of old.

World champions Red Bull to visit Dublin for F1 show run

Milton Keynes isn't the kind of place that immediately strikes you as a potential home to world champions but, in Red Bull Racing, the English city has found a rather successful resident.

Setting up shop in their factory in the south of the city, Red Bull have become a powerful force in F1 in recent years and, celebrating their first F1 constructor's championship in nine years, the team brought a show run of their 2011 world championship winning car to the city this weekend.

That same car - driven to 11 wins and a dominant world championship by Sebastian Vettel - will be in Ireland in little over a month, with former Red Bull driver and multiple Grand Prix winner David Coulthard strutting his stuff in mid-January.

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The show run will include three runs in the RB7 for ex-Red Bull man David Coulthard, as well as displays of other forms of motorsport - including young Irish drifting sensation Conor Shanahan. The scenes at the team's 2018 show run in Belfast - and their massive homecoming event in Milton Keynes this weekend - show that this event will be a brilliant one for Irish petrolheads to mark off in their calendars.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Conor Shanahan of Ireland and Red Bull on track during the Oracle Red Bull Racing Home Run event at Red Bull Racing Factory on December 10, 2022 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing) 

Balls.ie were on site in Milton Keynes this weekend, and spoke to the man who will be behind the wheel of the F1 car in Dublin. Coulthard said he was thrilled to be bringing something resembling a Grand Prix experience to the streets of Dublin:

I think it's fantastic to have the opportunity to bring Formula 1 beyond the race tracks. I've been involved in a number of show car events in different cities around the world. It's great to be having that happen in Ireland, in Dublin. I know the craic is going to be great, I know the energy is going to be great!

I just hope the weather is good for us so that we can put on a really nice demo. When I was in Belfast, it was wet and that was quite difficult to do anything really exciting. It's as close as I'm going to get to doing something in the UK - not quite Scotland yet, but I think there's a kindred spirit between the Scots and the Irish.

I'm looking forward to it - I'll maybe persuade my old buddy Eddie Jordan to come along and spread some of his craziness!

The prospect of Coulthard and Jordan together in Ireland will be a dream come true for Irish fans who followed the sport during its halcyon days in the 1990s.

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Coulthard was one of the great forces of that era, winning 13 Grands Prix during a career that saw him drive for three of the sport's biggest names. Starting off at Williams in 1994, Coulthard soon propelled himself into the championship-winning McLarens of the 1990s, helping Mika Hakkinen to two drivers' titles during his time with the team.

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Second only to Stirling Moss in the list of drivers with the most race wins without a drivers' championship, Coulthard's legacy goes beyond his achievements on track.

David Coulthard behind the wheel of the RB2 at the 2006 British Grand Prix (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the twilight of his career, he joined the newly-formed Red Bull team, created after a buyout of Jaguar, and brought the team their first ever podium at the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.

It has been an extraordinary journey for the team since, with Coulthard saying that he couldn't fathom the success they have achieved when he joined in 2005.

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Off the back of two consecutive world championships, Red Bull enter 2023 in a spot of bother, with a breach of the FIA's cost cap regulations resulting in a fine, and penalties which will severely undercut their ability to develop the car during the season. Nonetheless, Coulthard still firmly sees the team as favourites for the title next year.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing takes to the track during the Oracle Red Bull Racing Home Run event at Red Bull Racing Factory on December 10, 2022 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing)

It was this day last year that Verstappen claimed his first ever championship in such contentious circumstances in Abu Dhabi but, no matter the controversy of the last race, it cannot be denied that he is full worth his two championships, as proven by his imperious dominance in 2022. Many fans will hope for a return to the 2021 season, and his thrilling back-and-forth battle with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton - Coulthard is expecting that the title battle will be even closer between F1's "big three":

I think that Red Bull have to be the favourites. They've just dominated the last season. The regulations are not changing significantly going into next year, so the teams will continue to develop what they've got. That was the case all last year anyway. Mercedes managed to develop their way back into a winning car, Ferrari had a very cast car but they didn't manage to get strategy and reliability in place.

In my mind's eye, it sets us up for three teams genuinely having a chance of winning. There's some very small tweaks to the regulations - it's so cold I can't even talk! - but nothing major. On paper, this could be the closest ever world championship in 2023.

It's no secret that Red Bull absolutely romped to this year's title, in a manner almost even more dominant than the four titles won during the Sebastian Vettel era of the early 2010s.

Verstappen broke the record for most podiums in a single season during 2021, and the record for most wins in a single season this year, while team mate Sergio Perez has added three race wins to his tally over the same time.

Max Verstappen on the podium after winning the 2021 world championship in Abu Dhabi (Photo; Shutterstock)

When compared with the fortunes of Daniel Ricciardo, who left the team in 2018 to plough a path for himself elsewhere, it is hard to deny that the Aussie may be regretting his decision to depart Red Bull. After three podiums and just one win - in sensational circumstances in Monza last year, it has to be said - Ricciardo returns to Red Bull for 2023 in the role of reserve driver, a dramatic fall for one of the sport's most popular characters.

Coulthard commented on Ricciardo's struggles, and what he can add to the team - saying he hopes he can recover from the 'reputational damage' of the past few years at Renault and McLaren:

It feels like he's coming home in many ways. He left somehow needing to spread his wings, and the Renault experiment didn't really give him much success. McLaren gave him one win, but in actual fact there was a bit of reputational damage during that time alongside Lando Norris. This is a chance for him to rediscover what brought him into Formula 1 and what made him so exciting as a driver when he was first at Red Bull Racing.

It has to be a platform and a springboard to try and come back in. Now, given the difficulties over the season with McLaren, it's going to be very difficult for him to find a route back into Formula 1, with the Mercedes, the Ferrari...Red Bull would seem the obvious place. But obviously Max is around for the long term, Checo is doing a very solid job, so it could be very difficult for Daniel.

He's one of the friendliest, smiliest people in Formula 1, but this is not a personality competition.

Indeed, even team boss Christian Horner has questioned on multiple occasions the decision of Ricciardo to depart Red Bull. Though he has welcomed the eight-times race winner back with open arms, it may be a case of an unspoken "I told you so" behind the scenes.

Daniel Ricciardo takes the chequered flag to win the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix for Red Bull (Photo: Shutterstock)

For Red Bull, 2022 was a tough year, despite all of the success they enjoyed on track. The team's founder, and the driving force behind their operation, chairman Dietrich Mateschitz, sadly passed away ahead of October's US Grand Prix, leaving a giant hole behind - and an immortal legacy in F1.

The first man tasked with driving a Red Bull F1 car by "Mr Mateschitz", Coulthard knows better than most the impact that the Austrian giant had on the sport, and commended the efforts of both Mateschitz and Horner in building such a successful team:

Dietrich Mateschitz was committed to the investment that was necessary to take what was a fairly average Formula 1 team and invest to make them successful. I've been around Formula 1 long enough to know that it's not the name above the door - if that was the case, then Ferrari would probably have won everything because it's one of the most exciting and well-known motorsports brands in the world.

It's that long term vision that has brought the success of the team. Christian has been at the helm, seen many different drivers come through the team, they've had great success with world championships with Sebastian Vettel and now with Max. Max is only 25, so who knows what he can continue to do in the future.

We're here in Milton Keynes...they employ well over a thousand people now - it was about 400 people when I started. That's the key thing - that's what will bring the success.

2023 is a year that will bring much intrigue for Red Bull, and F1 at large. The celebratory scenes in Milton Keynes were impressive - but also had the air of a team that is only just getting started. With the sport's brightest talent in Max Verstappen, a reliable, race-winning sidekick in Sergio Perez, and the determined Daniel Ricciardo waiting in the wings, there is every reason to believe they can overcome their self-inflicted disadvantages for next year and rule the roost once more.

Irish F1 fans will have their chance to see the team in the flesh on the streets of Dublin on January 15, with tickets now on sale for the Red Bull show run.

SEE ALSO: F1: What Abu Dhabi Taught Us About 2023 And Beyond

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