Daniel Ricciardo says he is raring to go and ready to “have fun” after securing a stunning F1 comeback with AlphaTauri as of the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix, a move that will break his half-year absence from the sport.
Having parted ways with McLaren at the end of 2022, Ricciardo chose to take up a reserve role at former team Red Bull for 2023, duties that have included simulator work and a taste of the RB19 during a recent Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone, but he will now return to full-time action in place of the axed Nyck de Vries.
It marks a full-circle moment for the 34-year-old Australian, who made his F1 debut with Hispania Racing midway through the 2011 campaign, before progressing to Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) and then Red Bull, where he claimed seven of his eight Grand Prix wins.
Sitting down for an exclusive chat with F1’s Lawrence Barretto, Ricciardo opened up about his return, how a second spell in the Red Bull family has helped him get back to the “normal Daniel” and what’s possible with AlphaTauri going forward.
“It’s good, it’s really good!” Ricciardo beamed as the conversation kicked off. “I enjoyed this… Call it six months off – I think it was really good for me. But the more races I started to attend, the more sim I started to do, I was certainly getting the bug back, so to speak.
“Then jumping into the car a few days ago, I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’, it all felt very normal. It was one of those ones, the very first lap, ‘Oh, this is fast!’, then within a few it’s, ‘OK, I want to go faster now!’, so it was really good.”
Ricciardo added that he stayed ready “at all times” to ensure he could fully embrace any opportunity to return to the grid, which he admitted was “in the back of my mind” given the “unpredictable” nature of F1.
He also revealed how that opportunity arrived via the latest famed call from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko…
“I was like, ‘OK, let’s just hear what he has to say,’” Ricciardo smiled. “I think that’s probably the best thing, because sometimes you’re trying to prepare yourself, ‘What if he asks for this?’ So [I thought], ‘Let’s just hear him out and see what happens’.
“I didn’t really need to think much about it. I think, as well, being back in this family, I feel so much… I would say there’s certainly some familiarity, but I also feel at home, I feel like I’m kind of just going through it all again.
“These were the calls I used to get and these were the moments they used to kind of throw in front of us. There was no question that I was going to say yes, it was just I guess the reality of, ‘OK, it’s going to happen pretty soon’.”
Watch: Daniel Ricciardo sending it
With some of his confidence and belief “diminishing” during a tricky two-year period at McLaren, Ricciardo asserted that he feels back to his normal self after reuniting with Red Bull and spending time with some familiar faces.
“Getting back to Red Bull and just kind of the reception I had walking back into that team was really kind of, in a positive way, a little bit overwhelming,” he commented. “Then getting back on the sim, I was still a bit unsure how it was going to go, if the car would feel like it used to, if I was going to be, for the lack of better words, like the old me.
“Once I’d done a few sim sessions and started feeling like myself again, it then just kind of brought me back to normal Daniel, where I was falling back in love and ready to go again.”
Ricciardo then took a moment to discuss his expectations alongside Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri, who sit at the foot of the F1 standings with just two points to their name so far this season.
“The car will be what it is,” said Ricciardo before heading to Hungary, where he won for Red Bull in 2014. “I’m going to drive it and work from there. I don’t want to get too much… Preconceived ideas.
F1 VAULT: Hungary 2014 – Daniel Ricciardo’s wet and wild win
“I appreciate the car’s going to have its limitations. I’m sure they’re probably just lacking some overall downforce and things like this, but I think if it’s a car that feels balanced – it might not have as much grip as the Red Bull I drove a few days ago – that’s something I can work with.
“I’m looking forward to also developing it and using my experience, and ultimately, I think, for Budapest, just go out and have fun, try and use more right foot than left and have a good time!”
Ricciardo also knows that, should he deliver with AlphaTauri, there may well be a route back to Red Bull in the future – though he is focused on the here and now.
“That’s why it feels a bit like back when I was working my way up through it, in the Red Bull family,” he added. “That was it, ‘If you get results, we’ll keep pushing you, we’ll keep pushing you’. That’s really like the mindset.
“I know the team… It’s been tough to get a points finish this year, a top 10, so to push this car and try to get it inside the top 10, I think that would get everyone pretty fulfilled and excited.”
Watch the full interview with Ricciardo in the YouTube video player at the top of the page.