Daniel Ricciardo says his first simulator session back at Red Bull left him wondering “Have I lost it?” in Formula 1.
The Australian was dropped by McLaren at the end of a hugely disappointing second season with the team in 2022, where he was comprehensively beaten by Lando Norris.
Unable to secure a full-time seat elsewhere on the F1 grid, Ricciardo agreed on a deal with Red Bull to return as the reigning champion’s reserve driver for 2023.
After Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said Ricciardo had picked up some “bad habits” during his time away, the eight-time F1 race winner admits now that his sobering experience at McLaren made him realise he had lost confidence in his abilities.
“The first day at Red Bull when I got back in, I was trying to obviously adjust to that car, but also the sim,” he told RaceFans.
“It definitely took me more laps than I wanted at first, and I think that it was probably looking like, ‘Oh, he’s driving different’ or ‘He’s got weird habits’ or whatever.”
“I think that it was when I was there that first day that I realised I’d lost some confidence in myself.”
Ricciardo reveals that having initially approached his comeback with Red Bull cautiously, he immediately began to feel at home surrounded by the familiarity of old faces.
“I know last year my results weren’t good, but you’re so in it that you don’t really realise truly how you are or how you’re viewing yourself,” he added.
“When I got to [Red Bull’s] sim, I felt a bit nervous, so it made me realise that it had taken a hit on my confidence.
“But then, on the flip side, the second half of the day then went really well. Now I feel like it’s been like I never left, and that’s really nice. I’ve got Simon [Rennie] who was my engineer – he runs the sim, so we’re in a really good place now.
“But for sure, the first couple of hours, I was still like ‘Oh, have I lost it?’. But we recovered. I’m actually really enjoying it, to a point where Simon’s like, ‘Alright mate, you can stop now’, and I’m like, ‘One more lap!’.”
Amid Nyck de Vries’ continued struggles at Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri, Ricciardo was touted as a potential option if the Dutchman was axed early.
However, Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko confirmed ahead of last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix that the 33-year-old would not be under consideration if that situation materialised.
Instead, Red Bull junior drivers Iyumu Awasa, currently competing in Formula 2, and Liam Lawson, presently racing in the Super Formula series in Japan, would be the two contenders if de Vries’ form fails to improve in the coming months.