Daniel Ricciardo admits he is aiming to avoid falling into the same “trap” that caught him out during his McLaren spell ahead of his return to Formula 1 this weekend.
After a positive test showing at Silverstone in the Red Bull RB19, it was announced last week that the Australian would be replacing Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri for the remainder of the 2023 season.
Ricciardo is marking his comeback to the grid with the side that has only notched two points this year and is rooted to the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.
Despite scoring its only victory since 2012 in Monza, Ricciardo’s time with the Woking squad was plighted by a failure to overcome limitations with McLaren machinery through the entry phase of corners.
While the 34-year-old anticipates AlphaTauri’s AT04 possessing deficiencies of its own, Ricciardo says he is determined to avoid grasping preconceived ideas about the car before his first outing.
“I think that was probably what hurt me the last couple of years,” he acknowledged when asked about the corner entry instability issues he had with McLaren machinery.
“I started probably just falling into a little bit of a trap where I was like ‘yeah this car doesn’t suit me and I need to work around this and this and this’.
“You can probably be your own worst enemy as well. I go back to my first quali with McLaren, I did a great quali and that was when I kind of didn’t know so much yet.
“So I’m not really thinking ‘I know the car will have limitations’. I’m sure it’s not going to feel as good as the car I drove a week ago but I’ll just work with that.
“I drove it on the sim and it felt okay. I think it was a solid day on the sim. We obviously need to see if that translates but ask me tomorrow after I’ve driven it.”
Having highlighted that he’s already undergone a single session in the AlphaTauri simulator, the Perth-born competitor reiterates the critical need to start afresh with his current team.
Asked about the differences between the Red Bull car he tested at Silverstone compared to the AlphaTauri he trialled on the simulator, Ricciardo said: “Yeah, look, it is different for sure. I think there’s a lot of things. It helps driving a good car, because it gives you something to aim for in terms of development, setup, and where there is potential within these regulations.
“But also, in saying that, I also need to erase a lot of that from my mind and start fresh with AlphaTauri, this is it, this is what it is, and we need to move forward from here.”
Ricciardo has also emphasised the importance of not ending up in a similar rut to the one he endured towards the backend of his ill-fated McLaren career.
The eight-time F1 winner admitted he needed time to mentally recover after a bruising two years but asserts his recent outing for Red Bull demonstrated he had rediscovered his passion for racing.
“Yeah there was a lot I learned,” he reviewed. “Not only just singling the last two years or whatever, but over my career I look back on and having the last six months to reflect on my career, I’ve been able to see a few things where ‘oh yeah I would have probably done that a bit different, or I should have probably changed that, or spoke up about that’.
“The fact is, yes I’ve driven the simulator, but [until] last week I hadn’t driven a car in eight months. I haven’t really been doing anything driving-wise. I haven’t driven F3s or go-karts. I’ve just been really switching off from that.
“I appreciate the car [RB19] is very good, it’s the best on the grid at the moment, but I just got in it and I drove. I didn’t really think about anything, I just drove and had fun.
“Obviously the times were good and I was competitive but as a junior coming up, you are pretty ignorant and you don’t know much. You just race cars because it’s what you love doing.
“There’s going to be a lot to learn and I’m not going to solve everything this weekend. So it’s just really about focusing on using the things I do well. And I think that will translate into some more positive outcomes.”
Ricciardo has already revealed that his second spell with Red Bull’s sister team has arrived with the aim of securing a return to the Austrian side’s senior ranks in 2025.
Although he accepts he must perform in order to make that “dream” move a reality, Ricciardo underlines that there are no set expectations being placed on him across the remaining 11 rounds of the year.
“I think already getting another opportunity, it’s kind of another chance to make things better,” he said.
“I think that’s as well why I was excited to get back behind the wheel and just kind of show my true self. Even the thought of that excites me.
“Obviously the dream as I said is a Red Bull seat but there’s no like ‘this is what you need to do’. Everything has happened so quick,” he continued.
“Obviously the test was the first box I needed to tick. That was great. But now it’s like another hurdle. They are not like ‘take it easy’, they are like ‘show us what you’ve got’. But there’s no like criteria.”