Daniel Ricciardo says Formula 1 comeback with AlphaTauri has allowed him to drive “naturally” again after admitting he lost that during his stint at McLaren.
Despite taking McLaren’s only victory since 2012 at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s time with the Woking-based squad proved troublesome and saw him dropped at the end of last year.
In a bid to speed up his adaptation, Ricciardo was heard being given instructions over the radio by then McLaren race engineer Tom Stallard as early as the fifth round in his maiden campaign with the British team.
However, the Australian, who has replaced Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri for the remainder of 2023, admits it was a procedure that proved unpopular with him.
“No disrespect but I don’t want to get into that detail ever again,” he stated. “Even through year one at McLaren, at the summer break I’d learned that we’re probably going too much [in one direction], we need to change the approach a little bit.
“It was all with everyone’s best interest, trying to make it work. I felt like I’d come to the realisation that that doesn’t work for me. So we still probably did too much in hindsight.
“Maybe that works for another driver, but I think there were things over last weekend [Hungarian Grand Prix] that I worked on. Yuki [Tsunoda] was a good reference, especially coming out of the box. Little bits of driving and kind of, where the car could be on the limit in some areas of the track.
“There were certainly things the engineers were showing me and saying, ‘OK I think you can probably do this here and improve that there’. There was some learning to be had, but I think also, they wanted to see how I drive the car and kind of go from there.
“I was improving where I knew I could, but they were kind of just letting me drive naturally and see where that ended up. That was cool.”
Ricciardo’s venture with AlphaTauri marks the second time he has driven for the Faenza-based team, having also competed for the side early in his F1 career when it was known as Toro Rosso between 2012-13.
Red Bull’s second-string entry has predominantly been treated as a development ground for the Austrian group’s Junior Team drivers to determine their suitability for the senior outfit.
But the return of Ricciardo, 34, continues the move away from that philosophy, following comments early this year from AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer about the need to partner youth with experience in modern F1.
Ricciardo also believes that his abundance of experience has forced the AlphaTauri team to “think outside the box in some areas” since his mid-season arrival.
“Yeah I think the experience is certainly something,” he said regarding working with AlphaTauri.
“I know for the most part, Pierre [Hamelin]… Pierre was not so young anymore but it’s been mostly younger drivers.
“To have someone not only who’s been in the sport for this long but has also driven for other teams, it probably gets them thinking a little bit more about things.
“I guess probably, maybe, get them to think outside the box in some areas. Just naturally, from my experience, it might get them thinking in other ways.
“But I also need to see what this car likes, and all of that. I feel last week they were definitely excited to have me and also hear what I had to say in the briefings and that.
“I tried not to hog the microphone, I also don’t want to dish 100 things out in the first weekend. But I felt there were certainly some curiosities about what I feel and what I felt before, how they can learn and build. It’s still relatively a small team, so trying to implement some things is going to be fun.”
While Ricciardo out-performed Tsunoda in his first outing in the AT04 in Hungary, the Japanese driver had the measure of his more experienced team-mate during the Belgian Grand Prix.
Tsunoda was able to qualify 11th, eight places ahead of Ricciardo, who had his final run in Q1 deleted for a track limits infringement at Eau Rouge.
A storming start paved the way for Tsunoda to clinch the final point, but Ricciardo’s afternoon at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was compromised by traffic as a consequence of his qualifying struggles.