The Australian makes his return to F1 at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix as a replacement for Nyck de Vries.
Although he is delighted to be racing again, he is aware that the AlphaTauri is the slowest car on the grid with the team firmly at the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Worse than that is the fact that the AT04 car is notorious for having season-long weakness on corner entry, an area where Ricciardo particularly struggled during his two years at McLaren.
This could create a scenario where Ricciardo finds himself struggling with the same issues he struggled with the last time he competed.
Asked by Motorsport.com at the Hungaroring on Thursday if this particular aspect of the AlphaTauri car was a problem, Ricciardo felt he was in a better position to handle it than he was at McLaren.
“I think what hurt me the last two years is that I started falling into a little trap where ‘Oh, yeah, this car doesn’t suit me. I have to get around this and that'” , he said.
“You can probably be your worst enemy too. I kind of go back to my first qualifying with McLaren, I did a great qualifying. And that’s when I didn’t know much yet.
“So I’m not really thinking too much. I know the car will have limitations and I’m sure it won’t be as enjoyable as the car (the Red Bull) I drove a week ago. But I’ll just work with that.
“I drove it on the sim last week, and it looked good. I think it was a solid day on the sim. We obviously have to see if that translates, but yeah, ask me tomorrow for a once I’ve driven it.”
Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia AlphaTauri, with Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Ricciardo says the absence from F1 after his difficult spell at McLaren has given him a better realization of the mistakes he has made, which should put him in a better position to meet the challenges at AlphaTauri.
“I learned a lot, and I don’t just think about distinguishing the last two years, or anything,” he explained.
“Having the last six months to reflect on my career, I could see a few things I would have done differently, or where I probably should have changed that or talked about it.”
While Ricciardo made it clear when he left McLaren that he was only interested in returning to the F1 grid in competition machinery, he says he took on the AlphaTauri drive because he felt that it was the best way to fulfill his “dream” of landing a back seat at Red Bull.
Asked what had changed from his stance of only wanting to ride top machines, Ricciardo said: “I’m thinking of a couple of things. Obviously I’ve had enough time to, say, reset, but also just enjoy it again. I already felt that on the simulator so far this year.
“But that’s also why I wanted to drive the car and make sure it’s still what I enjoy doing the most. I was, let’s say, very quick, and I felt so good again. “
“I also knew that after everything that had happened over the last few years and after getting back into the sport, taking some time off, I knew it would be very difficult to get back to the top.
“Of course that was my wish, but I also think you have to be realistic at some point and say, ‘Okay, if I want to come back and say, a Red Bull seat, then it’s going to take a bit of time. .process and a path.’ And that, to me, is the best way right now
“And also, six months ago, I probably wasn’t in a position to jump at an opportunity like this. But it’s the luxury of time now, where I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. I I feel like I’ve become myself again, probably back also in an environment that just gives me a lot of nostalgia.”