Daniel Ricciardo believes that his return to the sport itself has brought his smile back. Speaking to Sportskeeda ahead of the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP, the AlphaTauri driver felt that being a part of the conversation and being relevant again was unthinkable a year ago.
The 2022 season with McLaren wrote off Ricciardo as a top driver on the grid. However, his return to the Red Bull team as a third driver and working on his confidence landed him a drive in AlphaTauri midway through the 2023 season.
Having fallen through the cracks of the sport, his potential however was never doubted, as he was once ranked a champion in waiting. His return to Faenza was interrupted by his injury, but his limited running until then had reinstated belief in his potential.
With his former seat at the Milton Keynes team post 2025 not reserved, the pressure to operate at a higher level will loom constantly through the 23-race 2024 season.
Asked by Sportskeeda how he planned to tackle the pressure of the RB seat next year, Daniel Ricciardo said:
“I definitely don’t see it as pressure, you know, in terms of, I think 12 months ago, a lot of the [people] call it rumours lists, for lack of better word, was normally, like negatively, directed at me. So, for me to be in a conversation again, whether it’s a rumour or not about, ‘Oh, could you be back in a Red Bull one day?’ Like that’s, you know, 12 months ago, 18 months ago, I never would have thought that would even be kind of a conversation, you know.
“Even if it is just a rumour, I just didn’t think a rumour like that would exist. So, you know, I think that just makes me smile. I think it gives me a lot of encouragement that just through the highs and the lows, the ups and downs, if you stay on the straight and narrow, crazy things can happen. And I think that’s really also just part of this, this kind of comeback and this return is.”
Having enjoyed successes with Red Bull from 2014 to 2018, Daniel Ricciardo had outperformed a dominant Sebastian Vettel in his prime in his first season with the team. Matching and beating Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on a good day, the ‘honey badger’ has finished as high as third in the championship in 2016. Revered as one of Red Bull’s top-class talent, his career trajectory took a downward turn when he left the Milton Keynes camp.
Upon returning, he has been a part of the headlines, with his Mexico performance being one of the highlights.
Frontrunner for the Red Bull seat for 2025, there have been several contemporaries of Daniel Ricciardo linked to the drive. The latest associations with the seat have been Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton.
On the pressure to perform in 2024 despite links with the 2025 drive at his old team, the Australian saw it as encouragement to perform better. Overwhelmed with the fact that he could drive again in 2023, it was a big progress on its own.
Daniel Ricciardo feels grateful to have been retained by AlphaTauri despite his injury
Signed by AlphaTauri for a period till the end of the 2024 season, Daniel Ricciardo felt grateful for being signed despite his unfortunate hand injury.
The former Red Bull driver, who has rediscovered his mojo, has returned to familiar surroundings but has had his share of unfortunate weekends in the 2023 season. Looking forward to next season, he feels that he has taken the momentum in his stride and a Red Bull drive for 2025 would be a fairy tale.
Speaking to Sportskeeda in Abu Dhabi, Daniel Ricciardo explained:
“Yeah, I’m just going to give it all I got and if something crazy happens, like that’s really cool. And I think I’ll take it in a stride and whatever, but I’m also not getting ahead of myself with that, you know, I still see that, you know, I’ve said that would be a fairytale kind of way to finish my career as a Red Bull driver.
“But yeah, I still use the word fairy tale because I know that it’s certainly not even close to being guaranteed or anything. I just want to kick some butt here. Very happy. I’ve got a seat next year. I’m very happy that they signed me when I was on the sideline crying about my hand. So yeah, ultimately, just happy to be back in the family and even if it’s not the big team. Yeah, I’m just in a very happy place being here.”
The AlphaTauri driver was adamant that he was back to race and to not let his PR and marketing value cloud the narrative surrounding him.