Daniel Ricciardo asserts that the lack of available seats on the 2024 Formula 1 grid doesn’t worry him as he targets a full-time return.
Following two difficult years with McLaren, Ricciardo returned to Red Bull in 2023 as a third driver.
The 33-year-old was present in the F1 paddock for the first time this year last time out in Australia and hinted that he was itching to get back behind the wheel.
However, he has declared that he is unwilling to rejoin the grid and compete for a team that’s positioned in the lower end of the pecking order.
Currently, there are no openings at Red Bull and Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton is expected to continue at Mercedes beyond the 2023 campaign.
Further down the grid, there are limited seats available at teams such as Alfa Romeo and Haas – but Ricciardo says he isn’t concerned about the lack of drives on the market.
“It doesn’t scare me,” he told Top Gear. “It’s always been like that. And I knew this was going to be a risk obviously removing myself from a seat.
“But I think it’s clear what I don’t want. I don’t want [just] any seat next year, as much as I think I want to be racing again.
“I don’t want to just start from zero, and kind of build my [F1] career from scratch. It’s not coming from an arrogant place. But I’m just past that.
“I don’t think that’s going to stimulate me or give me that second wind I’m looking for. So it makes the top seats even scarcer.
“But that’s where I know I will be able to perform at my best and thrive. That’s the sort of stuff I’m keeping my eyes on.”
Ricciardo is also conducting simulator duties for Red Bull, aiding its set-up work and development push as it looks to continue its strong title-winning form.
The Australian says that he has already rediscovered confidence through the Red Bull simulator that he lost over the last handful of years.
“The first day back at Red Bull in the simulator was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a simulator, which is crazy, especially because at this point in my career that’s normally the boring work,” he said.
“But Simon [Rennie] my engineer at the time at Red Bull, he’s running the sim now. So it was like we were back in the routine of 2018 and mate, I loved it.
“It took me a few laps to get going and once I did it all felt familiar again. I would honestly say in a day my confidence went from being probably pretty low to back at the levels I remember being at.
“It was a good day. And I think just having that time off [also] just gave me a chance to, in a way, forget a little bit of the last two years. Just go in there with a fresh mind.