Horner: Ricciardo’s “goal and objective is to be pitching for a 2025 Red Bull seat”

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Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Christian Horner opened up on Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Formula One with AlphaTauri.

The Australian driver participated in the Pirelli tyre test for Red Bull and was instantly on the pace according to the team principal.

It got even better when he did a push lap. That time would have put him on the front row for the British GP.

“I went up to have a look at the test. What impressed me the most was — bearing in mind he hasn’t driven this car, hadn’t been in a car for several months — within this third or fourth lap, he was down to a time that was within a second of what our drivers were achieving.

“Then his first proper run on tyres that were comparable, you could see his confidence was growing and growing. And that first lap of probably what was his seventh lap of the day would have put him on the front row of the grid. So it was hugely impressive.”

Horner admitted he was feeling pleased and happy for his former driver when he saw the times Ricciardo put in.

“I was just pleased to see that he was still able to operate at that level.

“I mentioned to him that would have put you on the front row of the grid, and you could see almost the relief in his eyes and almost like the pressure release off his shoulders that he could still do it. He wasn’t going mad — and the old Daniel was still there.

“And then his long runs were very impressive. The work that he did for Pirelli was absolutely on the money.”

Attention then turned to when the possibility of Ricciardo joining AlphaTauri was thought about.

It’s no secret that Nyck de Vries massively struggled through his 10-race spell at the team, and Horner conceded he wanted the 34-year-old in the car.

“Well, it was becoming obviously a difficult situation for for Nyck de Vries, but there was a high expectation on him because whilst inexperienced in Formula One, he’s obviously a very experienced driver. I think that there was a general feeling that Nyck wasn’t quite hitting the mark.

“Then the question was what are the options if we were to switch things around — and from a Red Bull Racing perspective, — the most interesting option for me was to see how Daniel performed.

“So that was the decision that was made. It all happened pretty quick. Here he is for the Hungarian Grand Prix.”

The British team principal was then asked about Ricciardo’s reaction to the news. They also had to be sure Ricciardo was up for the scrap of trying to drag the AT04 out of Q1 over the course of the next 12 races — barring a remarkable update to the package.

“Excited. I mean, first of all, he had to be clear that, did he want to do it? You know, stepping into an AlphaTauri is very different to driving a Red Bull car. It will certainly have its challenges.

“And I think the thing that we needed to be sure is, was he up for that challenge? Scrapping to get out of Q1. He seemed more than happy to go back into that situation to get back on the grid and be a Formula One driver again.”

As for beyond 2023, there is no plans for Ricciardo right now according to Horner.

While confirming Verstappen and Pérez would be Red Bull’s line-up again next year, the Brit stated Ricciardo is hoping to impress in a view to getting back in a Red Bull come 2025.

The Australian won seven races during five seasons with the team from 2014-2018 before leaving and joining Renault.

“At the moment, there’s only something in place to the end of the season. So there’s no thoughts or expectations beyond that. We’ve loaned him to AlphaTauri to the end of the year.

“Obviously, our drivers are going to be Max and Checo again next year. But it’s always good to have talent in reserve.

“I think Daniel is viewing AlphaTauri [as an opportunity]. He firmly wants to be pitching for that 2025 Red Bull seat. That’s his goal and objective.

“By going to AlphaTauri, I think he sees that as his best route of stating his case for 2025.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool