Ricciardo, paid by McLaren to leave the team for this season, was called to replace sacked AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries from Hungary. But two rounds later, the Australian crashed in practice at Zandvoort, sustaining a broken metacarpal in his left hand and flew to Spain for immediate surgery.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner supposed that Ricciardo might initially target a return for Qatar following the Singapore and Japan double-header. But Motorsport.com understands that the eight-time grand prix winner has now deferred his comeback until Texas (20-22 October).
AlphaTauri head of trackside engineering Jonathan Eddolls said ahead of the most recent Japanese GP: “He’s still going through that recovery phase. We’re still talking a while away, so we wouldn’t want to put a target on it. The recovery is going well. We’ve got some simulator work planned before a return.
“I think from our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early. The worst thing would be to come back before it’s properly healed and cause any issues. So, watch this space.
“The simulator is a very good representation of the car, all of the loads, et cetera. I think the final decision is more than likely going to come from him rather than from us.
“He will know better than anyone how is the pain and how is the recovery. We’re not putting him under pressure to come back. We’ve got a pool of three good drivers at the moment, so there’s no big rush.
“The focus is on him making a full recovery so that when he comes back, it’s not a point that’s even talked about.”
This delayed return for Ricciardo will afford 21-year-old Super Formula points runner-up Lawson another substitute appearance before he takes a backseat in 2024 to serve as the reserve driver for Red Bull.
Lawson has impressed with his cameo appearances given how he navigated the treacherous wet-weather and safety car interruptions on his debut in the Netherlands before banking two points for ninth place in Singapore.
But ahead of the Japanese GP, AlphaTauri confirmed a 2024 line-up of Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda to leave the Kiwi on the sidelines.
However, should Sergio Perez continue to struggle for confidence and form against Max Verstappen – who only needs to score three points in the Qatar sprint race to wrap up his third world championship – early next season, it is thought that Ricciardo will be promoted to create an AlphaTauri berth for Lawson.