Daniel Ricciardo: I needed to fall back in love with F1 before AlphaTauri return

By Sports Desk July 15, 2023

Daniel Ricciardo has said he needed to fall back in love with Formula One before taking the opportunity to return to racing with AlphaTauri.

The eight-time grand prix winner has not driven in anger since he was axed by McLaren at the end of last season, but will make a surprise return to the grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix next week after replacing Nyck De Vries at Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri.

The 34-year-old Australian’s career looked to be all but over after he was deemed surplus to requirements by McLaren following two underwhelming seasons with the British team.

Ricciardo did return to Red Bull as a reserve driver, but said he needed the enforced time off to ask himself if he really did want to return to racing.

“Falling out of love with it took a hit on my confidence and of course if you’re competing in a sport where you’re trying to be the best at something, the best in the world at something, obviously you need full confidence and belief,” Ricciardo said in an interview on F1’s YouTube channel.

“When that starts to diminish a bit, your enjoyment drops a bit as well. There’s a lot of factors. Getting back to Red Bull, just the reception I had walking back into that team was in a positive way a little bit overwhelming.

“Getting back on the sim, I was a bit unsure how it was going to go, if the car would feel like it used to, if I was going to be like – for the lack of better words – ‘the old me’.

“But once I’d done a few sim sessions and started feeling like myself again it brought me back to normal Daniel where I was falling back in love and ready to go again.”

Ricciardo said attending the Super Bowl in Arizona in February reminded him of the buzz of a competitive environment, while being at his home grand prix in Melbourne and then the Monaco race helped him get the Formula One bug back.

“I’ve enjoyed these six months off and it was really good for me but the more races I started to attend, the more sims I’ve started to do, I was getting the bug back. And then jumping in the car a few days ago I thought, ‘Oh yeah’. It all felt very normal, very familiar…

“I didn’t really need to think too much about (accepting the call to return). I think being back in this family, I’m kind of going through it all again…there was no question I was going to say yes.”

Ricciardo said joining AlphaTauri for the rest of the season was like going “full circle” given he raced the team, then known as Toro Rosso, in 2012 and 2013, after starting his F1 career with HRT Racing in 2011.

AlphaTauri sit last in the constructor’s championship after the opening 10 races of the season and Ricciardo is under no illusions that he will be racing a top-end car any time soon.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s a challenge for sure to jump in and try to hit the ground running. But also I guess I feel like I’ve been through a lot in the last few years where I’m not really scared of anything that’s going to be thrown my way – so I actually really do like the challenge.

“It will be a challenge but I don’t know if I’d have it any other way.”

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