Daniel Ricciardo has revealed he won't return to the F1 grid just for the sake of doing so, saying he only wants to make a comeback with a contending team. The Aussie driver revealed on Friday at the Australian Grand Prix that he's leaning towards making a return to a full-time seat in 2024.
Ricciardo, who previously drive for Red Bull, Renault and McLaren, is back at Red Bull this year in a reserve role behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. When asked about how Ricciardo has adapted to his new role on Friday, team boss Christian Horner said: “He‘s really throwing himself into it. For us it’s just positive to have him in the team contributing to the team, to the drivers, to the engineering team.
“It‘s a different experience. It must be very tough for him not being a race driver this weekend, but he’s thrown himself into and embracing this new role. “Hopefully he‘ll re-discover his love for the sport.”
Horner said he can tell Ricciardo became worn down by trying to extract as much as he could out of an under-performing McLaren car. But he believes the Aussie driver is back to being completely race-fit despite being out of action for months.
“I’d say he’s about 10 minutes away from being ready,” Horner said. “He’s in good shape. He‘s kept himself fit and well.
“He‘s training hard and he’s ready to go if given a chance. I think he likes the feel of the car in the virtual world, which seems to correlate well with what we‘re seeing in the actual world, and I think 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 Daniel that we knew.”
Daniel Ricciardo won't return with a struggling team
Speaking on Saturday, Ricciardo re-iterated that he'd love to return to a full-time drive in 2024. However he doesn't want to race for just anyone.
“One thing I want to get out of this year is, yes, I want to know what I want, but I also know what I don't want,” Ricciardo said. “And I think I can already answer that.
“I don’t want to go back to ground zero. I don’t want to just be on the grid to be on the grid and struggle in 18th place. I don’t want to be on the grid at all costs or at any cost.
“I also know myself that yes, it’s harder to then just jump straight into a top team in terms of availability, but I know that that’s where I want to be. I thrive in those situations when there is more on the line and I think at this point in my career, that real hunger and motivation to race at the front, that’s all I really want. I know it probably makes it even a little harder to get to, but that’s where I’m looking.”
Haas boss Guenther Steiner predicted "a lot of teams" would be keen to talk to Ricciardo about joining in 2024. "It's a little bit early to speak about a driver change already for next year, so let's see how we are doing with these drivers," Steiner said.
"For sure, at some point, maybe I'll speak with him. But I cannot promise anything, because if our two guys do a good job ... I think (that's) where I stand with it."
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