Daniel Ricciardo says he was “very happy” Red Bull “threw me in a little bit at the deep end” following his earlier-than-planned Formula 1 return with AlphaTauri this year.
It was announced after the British Grand Prix that Nyck de Vries would be ousted and replaced by Ricciardo at AlphaTauri for the remainder of the 2023 season.
Having been deputising as a Red Bull reserve option since being axed by McLaren, he secured his F1 comeback after a promising test in the RB19 at Silverstone.
Rather than waiting until the summer break as Red Bull has previously done, the Australian was handed the Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix weekends, classifying 13th and 16th respectively in the two races.
While the eight-time F1 race winner admits initially he was against the idea of taking the seat prior to the shutdown, Ricciardo believes those two rounds in the AT04 will serve him well for the remainder of this year.
“Firstly, I’m definitely thankful to get the two races before the break,” he said.
“I think a more conventional way was to put me in for the second half of the season but having those two races and then the break to reflect on it, but also then work on some things now coming into the weekend, I think that was really beneficial.
“So I think when the team told me it was going to happen very soon, part of me was like… ‘ah, maybe we should wait for the break’. But personally I’m very happy that they kind of threw me in a little bit at the deep end and I think it prepared me a lot better for the second half the season.
“I think Budapest was… I honestly couldn’t have asked for much more on that weekend. I was really happy with my performance and how I got into it.
“And then Spa, yeah, let’s say the little bit of a mistake in qualifying on the Friday then affected the Sunday. But I think the approach was right, and I just obviously paid the price for let’s say trying a little bit too hard, probably.
“But then Saturday kind of cleaned up a few things. Obviously, it was its own day but I was happy with the Qualifying and the race so overall, it’s been good. I’ll just keep working on it.
“But yeah, I feel like I’ve hit the ground running and feel content.”
After being let go by McLaren at the end of 2022 Ricciardo claimed he wanted to spend his time away from a full-time schedule rediscovering his passion for racing.
Aside from immediately being back up to speed on the track, Ricciardo asserts that his return races delivered exactly what he wanted on a “personal level”, standing him in good stead to avoid spiralling into the “old habits” that plagued his McLaren spell.
“I think I’m in a good place,” he stated. “I think the six months off, I did a lot of personal growth or reflecting and kind of just got things right again.
“Obviously I’ve only had the two races but those two races, not only on track but I think off track and the way the weekend ran and how I felt on a personal level, was exactly what I wanted and the level of happiness and enjoyment and drive and motivation.
“I think that was probably what I’d been looking for a little while. So now it’s just get back to it, but maintain the things that I’ve learned in that time off, carry those with me, as I said now, for this chapter two of my journey.
“It’s things that I’ll hold along the way and make sure I don’t get back into any old habits or anything like that. But it feels refreshing.”
Ricciardo has already conceded he is determined to place himself in the frame for the vacant Red Bull drive alongside Max Verstappen in 2025.
However, the 34-year-old explains he is no longer placing “unnecessary pressure on myself”, despite reiterating the stance that there are goals he wants to achieve.
“I had so much off time this year relative to running a full schedule, so I’d kind of had my break and my time off,” he discussed. “So yeah, I didn’t need the summer break.
“Obviously I know everyone else did and I understand that, but I’d had mine, so it was really just a good chance for me to catch up a little bit while the others were switching off.
“I still definitely had a good time and switched off from racing, but I was certainly looking after my body more than I usually would on a summer break.
“But I think as well, this kind of second chapter of my career, I am feeling just different about things and I feel like at least right now where my head’s at, I’m in a very good place and taking it seriously.
“Not, obviously, putting unnecessary pressure on myself or anything, but just have some goals to achieve and some things to chase. So that’s where I’m at.”