Christian Horner's bold call on Daniel Ricciardo: 'Whimpering out'

The Red Bull boss has been brutally honest about Daniel Ricciardo's standing in F1, but doesn't want the eight-time grand prix winner to be lost to the sport.

Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo chat at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Christian Horner says he didn't want to see Daniel Ricciardo's F1 career end with his disappointing exit from McLaren. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has given some insight into Red Bull's reasons for welcoming Daniel Ricciardo back into the fold after his surprise decision to switch teams for the 2019 season onwards, saying he believes the Aussie driver 'wasn't done' with the premier motorsport championship. Ricciardo joined the team after his stint at McLaren was cut short at the end of 2022.

The Aussie driver, who had seven of his eight grand prix wins with Red Bull, returned to the team this season in a promotional and test driving capacity. He's largely been doing simulator work for the 2023 championship leaders, with a test in this year's car coming up soon.

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He is still harbouring hopes of making an F1 comeback next season, however Horner has previously indicated that the Ricciardo that returned to Red Bull this season was a shadow of the driver who finished third in the drivers standings in 2014 and 2016. Regardless, the team boss' latest comments are a glimmer of hope that Ricciardo could return to the grid.

“Well, we brought him back because I felt that, you know, Daniel wasn’t done with Formula 1,” Horner said. “And to see him just whimper out of the sport wouldn’t have been right.

“So I think he fell out of love with Formula 1 over the last couple of years. Certainly, the Daniel that came back at the end of last year wasn’t one that we recognise, you know, the big smile and the big personality.

“I think he’s gradually refinding his love for the sport. He’s finding his passion for driving again. And we’ll see where that — what opportunities that presents for him.

“But I think the first thing for him is to rediscover his mojo, his passion for the sport and his inner dog. So we’re going to give him a test in a few weeks’ time and see — you know, see what he does.”

Daniel Ricciardo still angling for unlikely Red Bull comeback

Ricciardo hinted during the Australian GP that he liked being back at Red Bull when F1 commentator Ted Kravitz said it was unusual seeing him on the pit wall and not driving.

However, former F1 champion Damon Hill spoke to the Sky Sports F1 podcast and doubled down that Ricciardo wouldn't want to be a midfield role on his return. “Well,” he said, “they had a seat fit at AlphaTauri and so that’s set chins wagging."

“And realistically, what has Daniel Ricciardo got to gain by going up against either Nyck or Yuki Tsunoda in an AlphaTauri. He’s been there, he’s done that, he’s not after that. There’s nothing more to this than if there is a need for a reserve driver situation then he might jump in.

“But I can’t see him [doing it]. He’s already said that he’s not interested in doing a middling team, he only wants to be in a car that can win.”

Daniel Ricciardo smiles at the camera.
Daniel Ricciardo says his preference for an F1 comeback would be with a team capable of winning races. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Aussie gave a huge hint last month to F1 commentator Ted Kravitz that he was keen to return.

“I look good in these colours though right?” The Australian was clearly referring to his return to Red Bull.

And in his latest interview with ESPN, Ricciardo hinted that he could be eyeing a spot as the second driver at Red Bull. “I’ve been in the simulator, but I will drive the RB19 (for the first time) in July after the Silverstone race,” Ricciardo said.

“Then maybe I’ll get another one after Monza as well in September. I’m certainly excited to drive a fast car, but also a car that maybe still feels familiar to me – it does a little bit in the sim.

“But I’m just excited to drive again and to just try to remind a team obviously I once had a lot of success with that I can still turn a fast lap.”

The second driver for Red Bull is Mexican Sergio Perez who is currently second to No.1 driver and world champion Max Verstappen. The pair reportedly share a frosty relationship, but that doesn't mean it will be any easy task for Ricciardo to come back with the team.

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