Ricciardo, the renowned Australian driver, is set to make a surprise return to his former Faenza team, commencing from the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix. He is stepping in for novice Nyck de Vries, who was reassigned after 10 races.
Ricciardo’s F1 re-entry comes sooner than expected following his decision to take a break after a grueling two-year stint with McLaren, which resulted in a significant dent in the 34-year-old’s confidence.
Upon rejoining Red Bull as a third driver this winter, Christian Horner, the team’s manager, noted that the team had a hard time recognizing the once-familiar Ricciardo during his inaugural simulator run. The latter seemed to have developed many unwanted habits as he tried to adapt his driving style to the McLaren.
Ricciardo credited his regained form in the simulator to reconnecting with his ex-race engineer, Rennie, currently managing the Milton Keynes simulator. He was responding to an inquiry by F1 Flow.com/Autosport about how he re-found his lost form.
“Initially, my sim driving experience was a bit shaky since I hadn’t been in a race seat for a while,” Ricciardo admitted.
“I observed a noticeable dip in my confidence last year. Doubts began to seep into my mind.
“Returning to Red Bull was exhilarating for me, but also nerve-wracking. Those first few simulator runs required some effort to dust off my skills and rediscover my old self.
“I believe the crucial factor was working with Simon Rennie, my engineer from my racing days at Red Bull, who now manages the simulator. Collaborating with him brought a sense of familiarity, which quickly boosted my confidence,” he added.
Ricciardo’s simulator experience culminated in a Silverstone Pirelli test that finally convinced Red Bull of his readiness to replace de Vries.
The eight-time grand prix winner attributes his quick adjustment to the Red Bull car’s familiar DNA, which, in contrast to the unfamiliar dynamics of the McLaren, made it easier to accelerate. According to his ex-teammate Lando Norris, the McLaren remains a tough car to drive.
This familiarity allowed Ricciardo to re-embrace his natural driving style, which he had been forced to abandon at Woking.
“One significant takeaway was that after shaking off the initial discomfort, despite the car having changed from five years ago, it still felt like a Red Bull car to me,” he noted.
“I noticed that everything I used to enjoy about the car, like its DNA, was still intact, which gave me a boost of confidence. I was able to start driving more in my preferred style.
“The final milestone was testing the actual car to ensure I could handle it on the track. The test was successful, and we are now in a great place,” Ricciardo concluded.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ricciardo’s F1 comeback
Who is replacing Nyck de Vries in the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix?
Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo is set to replace Nyck de Vries from the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix.
Why did Daniel Ricciardo need to take time off from F1?
Ricciardo needed to take time off from F1 after a challenging two-year tenure with McLaren, which significantly eroded his confidence.
Who has been instrumental in helping Ricciardo regain his confidence in the simulator?
Ricciardo credits his former race engineer, Simon Rennie, who currently oversees the Milton Keynes simulator, with playing a key role in helping him regain his confidence.
What convinced Red Bull that Ricciardo was ready to replace de Vries?
Ricciardo’s performance in the simulator culminated in a Silverstone Pirelli test that finally convinced Red Bull of his readiness to replace de Vries.
How has Ricciardo managed to regain trust in his natural driving style?
Ricciardo managed to regain trust in his natural driving style by familiarising himself with the enduring DNA of the Red Bull cars, unlike the more alien behaviour of the McLaren.