Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claims Daniel Ricciardo is “back to the best we’ve seen of him” after he clinched his maiden 2015 podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
On pace all weekend in Budapest, the Australian split the Ferraris in qualifying to line up fourth on the grid. A sluggish getaway initially bumped him down the order, but the 26-year-old managed to fight back and emerge as a genuine contender for the win in the closing stages of the race.
While Ricciardo ultimately clashed with second-placed Nico Rosberg at Turn 1, the Red Bull man was still able to salvage P3 at the chequered flag.
“Daniel can always improve in some areas, of course you can,” said Horner, who also gave his driver an “A+” grade on his half-term report.
“But he's at the top of his game, and with some of his overtaking moves [in Hungary] you could see he was back to the best we've seen of him.”
Coming off a stunning 2014 campaign that saw him win three Grand Prix and outscore team-mate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo entered this year’s championship as the lead Red Bull driver.
Although his progress over the first half of the season was hampered by poor engine reliability and a chassis perhaps not as efficient as it used to be, the Australian also had so-so weekends of his own making.
In Canada for instance, Ricciardo admitted to “banging his head against the wall” all race long and was at a loss to explain his lack of outright pace, especially compared to team-mate Daniil Kvyat. After a tough start to his own Red Bull career, the Russian has “developed very nicely” and emerged as a genuine threat.
Despite these slight hiccups, Horner remains confident in Ricciardo’s skills and made it clear in Hungary that his contract with Red Bull was “absolutely watertight” for the foreseeable future.
Click here for a lighter look at some scenes from the Hungarian Grand Prix