Max Verstappen's major admission before Daniel Ricciardo's F1 comeback

While Verstappen and Ricciardo's initial pairing ended under acrimonious circumstances, the reigning champ is thrilled for his former teammate.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen says he never wanted Daniel Ricciardo to leave Red Bull when he walked away from the team in 2018. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The days of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen being at each other's throats during their time as teammates from 2016 to 2018 look to be a thing of the past, with the reigning F1 champion declaring he'd welcome the Aussie's return as teammate. Ricciardo rejoins the F1 grid at this weekend's Hungarian GP with Red Bull sister outfit Alpha Tauri, after replacing rookie Nyck de Vries.

The pair's previous stint as teammates came to a head at the 2018 Azerbaijan GP, in which Ricciardo's rear-ended Verstappen as the Dutch driver mounted a particularly vigorous defence of his position - resulting in both drivers crashing out. The incident left team boss Christian Horner furious at the time, and heralded Ricciardo's decision to walk out on the team later that year, in favour of a drive with Renault (now Alpine) for the 2019 season.

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It's been a winding road back to the Red Bull stable for Ricciardo, who aided Renault to two seperate podium finishes before switching to McLaren for the 2021 season. There he added to his tally of grand prix victories at the Italian GP, but his F1 career looked to be on life support after he was dropped at the end of last year in favour of fellow Aussie driver, Oscar Piastri.

He's earned a comeback in part due to some impressive work in a testing and promotional role for Red Bull this season which kept him firmly on the F1 radar, as well as de Vries' struggles in his first full season on the grid. Adding to the intrigue has been the struggles of Verstappen's current teammate, Sergio Perez, who has failed to qualify inside the top fifteen in the past five races.

While the likes of Horner and Red Bull have been keen to downplay the potential of Ricciardo returning to race alongside Verstappen, with Alpha Tauri's Yuki Tsunoda having impressed so far this season, Verstappen said he would welcome a return for the 34-year-old Aussie. The pair seem to have forged a much friendlier relationship compared to the frosty exchanges of their prior pairing in the years since Ricciardo first left the team - perhaps aided by Verstappen twice winning the world championship in his absence.

“I mean, I never actually wanted him to leave,” he said. “I spoke already quite a bit with Daniel last week.

"I could see he was very excited, also after driving our car. It’s great to have Daniel back on the grid and within the family.

“We know that we get on very well, and if Daniel does well where he is now, then of course you have the opportunity to go back up, right? It’s all open, to be honest.”

Nyck de Vries speaks out after Alpha Tauri F1 dumping

Ricciardo had been a reserve driver for Red Bull in 2023 and impressed so much during the Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone after the British Grand Prix, that the UK-based giant decided to loan him to their sister team AlphaTauri for the remainder of the year. It meant de Vries was sensationally axed after just 10 races in his rookie season - having been sitting dead-last in the driver standings.

One week on from his brutal dumping, the 28-year-old Dutch driver has taken to social media to speak out about the unfortunate situation. De Vries admits "it hurts" to see his F1 dream end so abruptly but says he's grateful of being afforded the opportunity to drive for AlphaTauri and overwhelmed by the support he's received.

Nyck de Vries speaks with an Alpha Tauri engineer at the British Grand Prix.
Nyck de Vries was dropped by Alpha Tauri to make way for Daniel Ricciardo's F1 comeback. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

“After recent events, I decided to take some time for myself away from social media, which I will continue to do," he wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank Red Bull and Scuderia AlphaTauri for the opportunity to live my dream.

“Of course, it hurts that the F1 chance I dreamed of for so long ended prematurely. But life is not a destination, it’s a journey, and sometimes you have to take the hard road to get where you want to be.

“I am grateful for our privileged lives, proud of our journey and my family. This is just another experience, we move on and look forward to the next chapter.

“Thank you to everyone for your kind and encouraging messages in the past week. It’s been heartwarming to feel your support.”

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