Horner: “Vulnerable” and “sensitive” Ricciardo looking to try and fall in love with the sport again

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Daniel Ricciardo returned to Red Bull for 2023 as a reserve driver for selected races this campaign. Most of his work this year involves the simulator and marketing.

The 33-year-old Australian left the team at the end of 2018 after taking 7 wins and 29 podiums during his five seasons with the Milton Keynes-based squad.

He secured two podiums at Renault in 2020 before heading to McLaren the following year.

Although he added to his win collection at Monza in 2021 with McLaren, the man born in Perth returned ‘home’ to Red Bull following a bruising couple of seasons with the Woking-based team as he struggled to get to grips with the unique characteristics of their cars.

On the latest episode of ‘Talking Bull’, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner discussed Ricciardo’s return.

“It’s great to have him back. We didn’t want him to go in the first place. Anyway, he went off on his life experience, you know, through a couple of different teams and certainly the last couple of years we haven’t seen the real Daniel.

“When Daniel drove for us, he was right up there with the very best and one of the best racers, some of his overtaking moves were legendary. And we didn’t really see that over the last couple of years.

“Daniel would have been out of Formula One if we hadn’t given him a lifeline. And it just felt that it was too soon for him to be calling a day on the sport.

“For such a big personality, I mean, he’s the kind of guy that lights up a room when he when he walks into it. So it was great to get him back in a different role this year.”

Horner went into detail on how he felt the Aussie had lost his love for the sport during his difficult period at McLaren and is looking to regain it in his current role in 2023.

“For him [in his current position], I think also start to try and fall in love with the sport again, because I feel that he’d lost that passion through the experiences that he had.

“He’s a really sensitive guy. Behind that big smile, you know, he’s very vulnerable. I think that the experiences that he had the last couple of years, you could see it took its toll on him and his enthusiasm for the sport.”

The British team principal also felt Ricciardo wasn’t himself following his return to Red Bull Racing, but he now says the Australian is starting to regain his self-confidence and self-assurance.

“And certainly when he first came back, it wasn’t a Daniel that we recognised. He was driving differently. He looked different, he’d lost a huge amount of weight.

“He’d lost that self-confidence, that self-assurance. Bit by bit, that’s coming back. We’re getting to see the true Daniel again, the true spirit that and, you know, his performances are getting ever more impressive.”

Horner also confirmed that the eight-time Grand Prix winner is going to do tyre testing for the team later in the year.

“He won’t be doing any FP1s, but he’ll be doing some tyre testing for us and any opportunity like that,” said Horner. “To have a driver on the bench of Daniel’s quality and caliber is is phenomenal for us.

“You know, should god forbid we ever need to call on his on his services, it’s just great to have a driver whose quality available to the team.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool