Horner: ‘We didn’t recognize the Ricciardo that had left us’

Christian Horner says Red Bull discovered earlier this year a Daniel Ricciardo that was very different from the one that had left the team at the end of 2018.

Last summer, Ricciardo and McLaren agreed to part ways at the end of the season after two unfruitful years together during which the Aussie never succeeded in establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with at Woking.

Ricciardo was released from the final year of his three-year deal with the Woking-based outfit, and subsequently picked up by Red Bull as the team’s third driver, a role that also involved simulator and development work at Milton Keynes.

So far, Horner has been impressed by the Aussie’s energy and commitment to the team.

    Read also: Jones ‘just can’t see’ Ricciardo returning to the grid

“It’s great to have him back in blue,” Horner said in Melbourne. “This is the first grand prix he is attending this year.

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“He’s really throwing himself into it, sitting in all the briefings. He’s been working hard in the simulator as well in the UK, doing some race support and some development work on that.”

Horner noted that Ricciardo’s trademark smiling demeanor remains just as effective today as it was during his years with the bulls.

“He lights up a room when he walks in,” said the Briton. “His popularity in Formula 1 – even though he’s not driving, he’s still probably the most popular driver here.

“For us, it’s just positive to have him in the team, contributing to the team, to the drivers, to the engineering team. Hopefully he’ll rediscover his love for the sport.”

Horner hinted that Ricciardo could be given a test run at some point this season.

“We’ll see how that goes for him. But I think it’s a different experience,” he added.

“It must be very tough for him not being a race driver this weekend but he’s thrown himself in and embracing this new role.”

Interestingly, based on his third driver’s sim work, Horner has observed a change in Ricciardo’s driving style, a different approach perhaps borne out of the necessity to adapt to the various cars handed to him by Renault and McLaren in the past four years.

“When he first turned up after Abu Dhabi – I think the problem is when you drive a car that obviously has its limitation you adapt and you try and adjust to extract the maximum out of that car.

“And it was clear when he came back that he picked up some habits that we didn’t recognise as the Daniel that had left us two or three years earlier.


“But having had time off over Christmas and so on and a chance to reset when he’s come back and got into the 2023 work, he’s hit the ground running.

“He’s desperate to get a run in the car at some point to validate that. But we’re certainly seeing him getting back to being far more reminiscent of the Daniel that we knew.”

Speaking in Friday’s team boss media conference alongside McLaren’s Zak Brown, Horner turned to the latter while commenting on Ricciardo and said: “We’ve had to feed him up a bit – I don’t know what you guys did to him, but he came back looking a bit skinny.

“But he’s looking healthier now. And I think he’s training hard and he’s ready to go, given the chance.”

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