Australia woke up to the inevitable news that its favourite child Daniel Ricciardo will return to the Formula 1 grid effective immediately, replacing the underperforming rookie Nyck de Vries at Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. What happens next for Ricciardo could become Formula 1 folklore…
As the saying goes, “you can’t keep a good man down,” and after taking a back seat at the start of the season, Danny Ric’s imminent return to Formula 1 – and where he’ll drive – has been an intense topic of discussion with each passing circuit, with every driver on the grid feeling the heat knowing that a fit and hungry Ricciardo was waiting in the wings.
Returning to Red Bull as its third driver has allowed Ricciardo to rediscover his lost love of motorsport, away from the intense scrutiny of a starting seat, unbound by the limitations he felt with his previous teams – Ricciardo could maintain his complicated relationship with F1 on his own terms.
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner revealed he didn’t recognise the driver that had returned to Red Bull after almost six years away; Ricciardo was hindered and heavily affected by his difficult period away from the Austrian team. His confidence was on the floor and it showed.
Since the start of last season, Ricciardo has been deployed primarily for testing and commercial duties as the Formula 1 calendar expands into the USA – and specifically Las Vegas – deliberately distancing himself from the starting grid before making his next crucial move.
But now, as the chequered flag fell on another anonymous display from AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries at Silverstone, the characteristically ruthless Red Bull hierarchy called time on the Dutch rookie’s drive, implementing Ricciardo on a short-term deal.
It’s a relief for Red Bull and in particular, its ‘second’ driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez, whose form, whilst initially impressive at the start of the 2023 season, has surprisingly fallen off in recent months, with the Mexican struggling to keep up with the scintillating speed of world champion driver Max Verstappen.
Last weekend at Silverstone, Checo didn’t make it past Q1 and started the race in P16, making it five consecutive races in which the Red Bull driver has failed to qualify for the top 10. The news that Daniel Ricciardo has joined another team will be a welcome respite for Checo as he looks to kick on for the remainder of the season.
Conversely, Ricciardo was tearing up the asphalt at Silverstone during the British Grand Prix last weekend, consistently clocking up top half times behind the RB19, with his best time coming in at 1:27.415 – 0.7 seconds off Max Verstappen in first. Clearly, the Honey Badger was back.
WATCH how Daniel Ricciardo stays fighting fit below.
“This for me would be like the fairytale. Honestly, the fairytale ending [would be] to finish my career here if I could have it all my own way.”Daniel Ricciardo on a Red Bull return
Ricciardo’s loan to Red Bull’s sister team is a win-win for all parties: Ricciardo returns with a point to prove, in a car that, for the most part, has been performing well below the reduced expectations this season, while Red Bull, under increasing pressure to make a savage swap midseason, keeps an experienced and loyal driver within the family and affords Checo and the team some breathing room in the pursuit of a Constructors’ Championship. But as everyone knows, Ricciardo will have his eyes on his old Red Bull seat.
Although Ricciardo, whose last win in Formula 1 came only two years ago in Monza, admitted that he wanted to fight for more podiums with a competitive team, the hard work starts now; returning to the back of the grid with the team where he made his name almost ten years ago. Ricciardo reenters the circuit hungry and without any points on the board, having just been handed a blank page to write the next chapter of his unbelievable Formula 1 fairytale.