Daniel Ricciardo said he was refreshed and ready to go for a Formula One comeback with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix that he hopes will lead to a dream return to dominant champion Red Bull.
The eight-time grand prix winner has replaced Dutch driver Nyck de Vries at Red Bull’s sister team for the rest of the season.
The Australian’s move puts pressure on Mexican Sergio Perez, who has a contract with Red Bull to the end of 2024 but has been left far behind by team mate and double world champion Max Verstappen.
“The dream is a Red Bull seat but there is no ‘this is what you need to do’,” said Ricciardo, who had been due to spend the 2023 season as Red Bull reserve while assessing his future after a tough two years at McLaren.
AlphaTauri is last overall and has maybe the slowest car on the grid but a grinning Ricciardo told reporters at the Hungaroring outside Budapest that he was not worrying about negatives.
“I probably expected the year off -- obviously I haven’t got the whole year but I’ve actually felt like I’ve got enough time that fuelled me, energized me and I’m definitely ready to go again,” said the 34-year-old.
Ricciardo drove the latest Red Bull RB19 car at a tyre test at Silverstone last week, with team bosses deciding his times were impressive enough to make the change with de Vries immediately.
“That was something that for me was just so nice to get back into the car again. It was the last box I needed to tick, to just make sure this is what I truly want,” he said.
“I obviously know that this weekend, and now for the rest of the season, it’s a different car and for sure with some different challenges.
“I’m just going to get there, kind of not think too much about it, drive and then kind of go from there and just take some steps forward after that.”
Ricciardo had a torrid time at McLaren, after two years at Renault following his departure from Red Bull in 2018, when he struggled to adapt his style to a tricky car and was eventually replaced by compatriot Oscar Piastri.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said this week that Ricciardo had returned with some ‘bad habits’ but was now back to the driver of old.
Ricciardo was just grateful to have another chance.
“I’m not worried. I know there will be challenges,” he added. “I don’t see the pessimistic point of view, worried about this or that or if the car doesn’t suit me. It’s just for me like an opportunity now.
“I think the time off was really, really beneficial for me and I’m in a place now where I’m just hungry and ready to go...so, pretty pumped.”
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