Daniel Ricciardo has credited Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner for still believing in his abilities when he sensed other people had “lost a little bit of faith”.
Ricciardo was axed by McLaren at the end of last season after two tumultuous years with the Woking team, eventually ending back at Red Bull in the capacity of reserve driver.
But the combination of a successful Pirelli test outing at Silverstone in Red Bull’s dominant RB19 car and Nyck de Vries’ rookie struggles facilitated Ricciardo to return full-time to F1 with the AlphaTauri team in July.
The Australian says that Horner has supported him wholeheartedly since he completed his comeback to the Red Bull fray.
“In terms of what I felt coming back into the [Red Bull] family, his investment in me, his interest, the open arms, I feel he’s been a really big supporter,” Ricciardo said regarding Horner. “He really wanted me to get back to a level he knows I’m capable of.
“A lot of people probably lost a little bit of faith in me over the last couple of years, but I felt like the things he was doing to make me comfortable, setting me up with Simon [Rennie, his ex-race engineer], he still believes I can do it, and he just wants to see it.”
Horner previously revealed that Ricciardo’s initial simulator runs at Red Bull’s Milton-Keynes base exposed that he had picked up “bad habits” during his time away.
Ricciardo, who was left questioning whether he had lost his race-winning capabilities, admits “it took a while to get going” again before things progressively clicked.
The eight-time F1 victor also concedes that his return to Red Bull left him feeling “pretty nervous because it was like walking back into time going back to the factory”.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received, whether people would be rolling their eyes and saying I was the kid that left them five years ago. You never really know, but it was a lot nicer than I thought,” he continued.
“With the driving, it took a little while for me to unplug a few things. I would say the second time in the sim, I then started to improve and I felt my confidence coming back. I would see Simon smiling at me, and we would start to joke a little bit, so I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this’.”
Despite having been on the sidelines since the end of August after sustaining a break to his left metacarpal in an FP3 crash at Zandvoort, Ricciardo’s place at 2024 with AlphaTauri has been confirmed.
As he bids towards securing the vacant Red Bull drive alongside Max Verstappen for 2025, Ricciardo asserts that he has informed Horner he has no plans to move elsewhere.
“I told Christian, ‘Look, now that I’m back in the family, I feel so much happier and like myself that I don’t want to leave’,” Ricciardo concluded.
“The big picture is that I would love to get back to the top team. If it means next year I’m working my way back up, that’s also exciting.”