Ricciardo: 'having time off helped me forget a bit of the last two years'
How is Danny Ric finding life back at Red Bull F1? TG caught up with RB's new reserve... and the smile is back
Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull as reserve driver might be a big step back for the Australian’s F1 career. But, it could prove a masterstroke if Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Pérez fall out over the Mexican’s growing desire for equal treatment and a shot at the title. Remember what happened in Sao Paulo last season?
It’s certainly been a success mentally, at least, with Ricciardo smiling again after two torturous seasons spent with McLaren. That rockstar mojo is back, and it’s not from the Woking squad’s golden handshake, reported to be $18 million US dollars. It’s been about rebuilding his confidence, brick-by-brick.
What’s the return to Red Bull been like?
Daniel Ricciardo (DR): Better than I thought it would be. I was definitely excited to come back and I think the chats we were having, I felt like everyone was excited for me to come back and it was kind of like open arms. But, yeah, I didn’t expect everyone that I used to work with to be as kind of high [about it] as I am. I think it’s cool. I’ve moved on, I’ve matured. I’ve lived and learned. And I’ve kind of grown through it all. And I feel everyone else has as well. There’s kind of no carry over of 2018 or whatever choice I made back then, it’s like [swipes hands clean]. I don’t even want to say we’re starting from fresh, because it just feels like we’re picking it up where we left off. And it’s been really good, so I’m happy. I’ve got some perks, in that I got more time back home over Christmas, got to spend some time with the family. Obviously you’re very used with this lifestyle to being selfish, and putting yourself first and not really giving your mates or family much time because you don’t have the opportunity. So being there a bit more for them the last kind of few months has been nice.
How much simulator work have you been doing? And has it helped you regain confidence in yourself as you thought it might?
DR: Yeah. Since Abu Dhabi  I went home, and spent two months there. I then went to the USA, went to the Superbowl. And I basically just did no race driver things for probably close to three months. But, the first day back at Red Bull in the simulator was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a simulator, which is crazy, especially because at this point in my career that’s normally the boring work. But Simon [Rennie] my engineer at the time at Red Bull, he’s running the sim now. So it was like we were back in the routine of 2018 and mate, I loved it. It took me a few laps to get going and once I did it all felt familiar again. I would honestly say in a day my confidence went from being probably pretty low to back at the levels I remember being at. It was a good day. And I think just having that time off [also] just gave me a chance to, in a way, forget a little bit of the last two years. Just go in there with a fresh mind.
There’s not many seats left on the 2024 F1 grid, and no competitive ones. Does that concern you?
DR: It doesn’t scare me. It’s always been like that. And I knew this was going to be a risk obviously removing myself from a seat. But I think it’s clear what I don’t want. I don’t want [just] any seat next year, as much as I think I want to be racing again. I don’t want to just start from zero, and kind of build my [F1] career from scratch. It’s not coming from an arrogant place. But I’m just past that. I don’t think that’s going to stimulate me or give me that second wind I’m looking for. So it makes the top seats even scarcer. But that’s where I know I will be able to perform at my best and thrive. That’s the sort of stuff I’m keeping my eyes on.
I get it, you don’t want to just make up the numbers. What are you doing outside of F1 to make the most of this year?
DR: I think [I’m] also understanding the things I’ve learnt in these first three months, the things I want to invest more energy in. And there’s other things, which are like, alright, I’ll remove these from my plate, and just kind of spend more quality time on fewer projects as opposed to just scattered efforts on many. The two big ones for me I’d say are the wine [DR3 X St Hugo Wines], and the clothing business [Enchanté by Daniel Ricciardo]. These are the things I’m genuinely really enjoying and invested in. So they’re my fun little hobbies. I say hobbies. They’re turning into something else. But they’re my fun projects on the side. And then it’s [also] nice just getting time to myself. Honestly I didn’t train for like two months, because I just needed to give myself time off. And now I’m getting back into it, and I want to be getting fit again. I don’t know. I’m just learning a lot through all of this.
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