Red Bull boss Christian Horner said it is clear Daniel Ricciardo's "golden objective" is to replace Sergio Perez a year-and-a-half from now.
Ricciardo has replaced Nyck de Vries at Red Bull's second team AlphaTauri and will make his F1 comeback at the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 23.
The Australian driver's return has increased the pressure on Max Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Perez, who has failed to make the final qualifying session (Q3) on five consecutive occasions and has been on the podium only twice since winning April's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Perez has a contract until the end of 2024 and sources have told ESPN he is unlikely to be replaced before then.
Ricciardo's AlphaTauri race deal covers the rest of 2023 and Horner has suggested the Australian driver has committed to a much longer game in terms of returning to Red Bull.
"At the moment there's only something in place until the end of the season," Horner told the F1 Nation podcast this week. "So there's no thoughts or expectations beyond that. We've loaned him to AlphaTauri to the end of the year. Obviously our drivers are going to be Max and Checo [Perez] again next year. But it's always good to have talent in reserve.
"I think Daniel is viewing AlphaTauri... he firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull seat. That's his golden objective. And by going to AlphaTauri, I think he sees that as his best route of stating his case for 2025."
Ricciardo told ESPN in June that the "fairytale" end to his F1 career would be a return to Red Bull, the team he left at the end of 2018.
He scored a handful of podiums over the next two years at Renault before winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix with McLaren.
That victory was the high point of an otherwise unsuccessful two-year spell with McLaren, which led to Ricciardo returning to Red Bull as its third driver -- effectively the backup to Perez and Max Verstappen -- this year.
Ricciardo's first taste of Red Bull's dominant 2023 car was a test at Silverstone after the British Grand Prix. During the test, the company confirmed the Ricciardo/De Vries swap.
As reported last week, sources told ESPN Ricciardo's impressive lap times were ultimately what pushed the driver change over the line. Horner said the performance at Silverstone was a big statement.
"What impressed me the most when I went up to have a look at the test was -- bearing in mind he hasn't driven this car, hadn't been in a car for seven months -- within his third or fourth lap he was down to a time that was within a second of what our drivers were achieving," Horner said.
"Then in his first proper run, as it were, on tyres that were comparable, you could see his confidence was growing and growing and that first lap on probably what was his seventh lap of the day would have put him on the front row of the grid. So it was hugely impressive."