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The Daniel Ricciardo Return To F1 Grid Creates Issues At Red Bull, AlphaTauri

A rejuvenated Ricciardo returns to the Formula 1 grid this week in Hungary, and that makes things complicated for the entire Red Bull Racing family.

Daniel Ricciardo will return to Formula 1’s grid for the final 12 rounds of the 2023 season, starting in Hungary this weekend, but his presence has an influence on more than just his own long-term prospects.



Ricciardo’s odyssey to this point truly began in mid-2018 when he sought to seek a fresh start away from Red Bull’s organization, which was gradually building itself around Max Verstappen, during an era in which Red Bull occasionally picked up wins against the mighty Mercedes. At that stage, Ricciardo was regarded as a bona fide front-runner and while that reputation remained intact during two encouraging years at Renault it took a severe dent once he switched to McLaren.



Ricciardo never clicked with the driving style required to extract performance from McLaren’s machinery and a mutual split one year early, having been comprehensively beaten by Lando Norris, meant his stock nosedived.

The Australian took up a role as Red Bull’s third driver, keeping his eye in the game, while allowing him to hit the refresh button and take time away from the hamster wheel of Formula 1. Red Bull re-discovered a driver who had lost his mojo and picked up bad habits, with his first runs in the simulator described as a disaster. Over the following weeks, however, his form improved.



Ricciardo was initially reluctant to race in 2023, particularly with a backmarker, but half a season off has given him a fresh start. That coincided with Ricciardo’s eye-catching performance at last week’s post-British Grand Prix tire test at Silverstone in combination with Nyck de Vries’ underperformance at AlphaTauri.



“I had enough time off to reset and enjoy it again,” said Ricciardo at a very busy media session on Thursday. “I was up to speed (at the test) really quickly and it felt really good again, and obviously tasting the Red Bull car got my pretty excited and everything that happened the last few years and getting back into the sport, taking some time off, I knew it was going to be very hard to go back in at the top. Of course, that was my wish but I think also you need to be realistic at some point and say, ‘Okay, if I want to get back to a Red Bull seat then it is going to take a bit of a process and a path.’ This for me is the best path at the moment.



“I’ve fallen in love with it again and I feel like I’m being myself again, probably back as well in an environment that is giving me a lot of nostalgia. When the opportunity came, I thought let’s try and that’s that.”

Ricciardo will also have to adapt to AlphaTauri’s lackluster AT04, which has weaknesses.

“In terms of expectation, there is none,” he said. “I know the car is going to have some limitations, but I’ve got to do the best with what I’ve got. If it’s something I think I can work with then that’s all I need to feel good behind the wheel again and use some of my experience to push the team. As far as this weekend goes, if you ask me where I want to finish, I couldn’t tell you. I just want to know I put everything in to it and got a lap I can be proud of.”

Ricciardo nevertheless emphasized that “I need to show something—for sure—for next year, and beyond. There’s no guarantees, probably ever, with this sport.”

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