Daniel Ricciardo has set tongues wagging in the Formula One world after fans pounced on a telling pre-race moment with Red Bull bosses in his comeback race at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Aussie driver returned to the F1 grid for the first time in eight months, recovering from last place to finish 13th in a sensational display for Red Bull's sister team AlphaTauri.
Ricciardo outperformed teammate Yuki Tsunoda (15th) and had to battle back after falling to 18th on the opening corner. The Aussie was forced off track after he was hit from behind by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in a race won by Ricciardo's former teammate at Red Bull, Max Verstappen.
EMBARRASSING: Daniel Ricciardo photo shredded by F1 fans
Speculation has been rife that Ricciardo could be in line for a reunion with Verstappen at Red Bull, following the drop in form of Sergio Perez this season. Red Bull supremo Helmut Marko and team boss Christian Horner did little to dampen that talk after being captured in a lovely pre-race moment with Ricciardo.
Marko is not known for his warm displays of affection but the Austrian looked beaming as he came over to Ricciardo's car to offer him a good luck handshake. AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost and Ricciardo’s trainer Pyry Salmela both did likewise, before Horner came over to give the Aussie a lengthy pep talk and a long handshake that sent the F1 world into overdrive.
One fan wrote on Reddit: “Lmao they want him in that RB so bad they don’t even hide it. Proper favourite child behaviour.” The incident certainly caused a stir on social media as fans speculated what it could mean for Ricciardo's chances of making a spectacular return to Red Bull to partner Verstappen.
helmut marko, pyry (dan’s trainer), franz tost and christian horner (look how excited he was!) wishing good luck to daniel ricciardo before the race ❤️
he’s so loved, he’s so supported, he’s being listened to! and he knows he’s back with his family… I’M LOVING THIS SO MUCH 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/Lo7MdKXlJ1
— ece ③ (@ricciardopics) July 23, 2023
RIP Perez in the second seat
— Brandon (@Naranjableeder) July 23, 2023
Daniel Ricciardo’s pre-race handshake with Red Bull bosses says it allhttps://t.co/I4iAQQyAqy
— World News Pro (@Hero45840397) July 24, 2023
Wow. He's back in the RB next year
— Keefy Tweets (@F1gronk) July 23, 2023
If Red Bull are thinking about reuniting Ricciardo with Verstappen then Perez certainly gave them food for thought in Hungary after returning to form to grab third place. McLaren's Lando Norris took the other podium spot, with Australia's Oscar Piastri finished fifth in the other McLaren.
Daniel Ricciardo change has 'worked out perfectly'
Ricciardo outperformed his AlphaTauri teammate Tsunoda in both qualifying and during the race, following the team's controversial decision to axe Nyck de Vries after just 10 races and replace him with the Aussie. Marko said after the race in Hungary that the contentious call had already been vindicated.
“It was a very confident and mature performance,” Marko said about Ricciardo's race on Sky Sports Germany. “He lost three or four places because of the collision after the start. Thirteenth place is fine.
“But it’s also the positive momentum he brought to the team and a stabilisation of the technical statements and changes - the driver change has worked out perfectly.”
Ricciardo admitted afterwards that he was concerned about surviving the heat and sheer physicality of the Hungaroring circuit. "But I feel like I still have a bit of energy," he said afterwards.
"I was certainly I don’t want to say worried, a word less than worried. This is always one of the most physical races, let alone having not done this for eight months. I thought after 30 laps I would be singing for a breath of fresh air, but I actually felt great.
"The race pace was good. It was unlucky for me at the start to drop to the back.
"When we’re a team who need to have everything to go well to get points, I knew it was impossible to get back into the top 10. But I'm glad I could continue the race and learn from the car. In the end, I’m happy with the race I did."
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