Daniel Ricciardo says returning to the Red Bull environment has helped him fall back in love with Formula 1.
Ricciardo will drive the remainder of the 2023 season with its sister team, AlphaTauri, replacing Nyck de Vries who was dropped after the British Grand Prix.
After departing McLaren at the end of 2022, Ricciardo returned to Red Bull in a third driver role for this year and was mainly involved in simulator and marketing duties.
But following a test with Red Bull at Silverstone last week, it was immediately announced that Ricciardo would replace de Vries at AlphaTauri.
Having endured a challenging period at McLaren, Ricciardo says he was able to enjoy life in F1 again while back at Red Bull.
“I had enough time off to let’s say reset and enjoy it again,” Ricciardo said, when asked what has changed from the end of last year.
“I already felt that on the simulator so far this year, but that’s why I also wanted to drive the car and really make sure it’s still truly what I love doing most.
“I was up to speed really quickly [at the Silverstone test] and it felt really good again, and obviously tasting the Red Bull car got me pretty excited.
“Everything that happened the last few years and getting back into the sport, taking some time off, I knew it was going to be very hard to go back in at the top.”
Ricciardo has confirmed that his ultimate goal is to return to a full-time drive with Red Bull, having already spent five seasons racing with it from 2014 to 2018.
The 34-year-old, who has “fallen in love” with F1 again, believes that the AlphaTauri drive is his best route to return to his old seat.
“Of course, that was my wish [to drive for a top team] but I think also you need to be realistic at some point and say, ‘OK, if I want to get back to a Red Bull seat then it is going to take a bit of a process and a path’,” he said.
“This for me is the best path at the moment. Also, six months ago I wasn’t in a place to jump at an opportunity like this, but that’s been the luxury of time now.
“I’ve fallen in love with it again and I feel like I’m being myself again, probably back as well in an environment that is giving me a lot of nostalgia.
“I spent a lot of my career here and a lot of my journey and junior days was here, so talking to Helmut [Marko] again more regularly it feels like where I belong.
“So when the opportunity came, I thought let’s try and that’s that.”