Christian Horner says he would advise Alpine to hire back Daniel Ricciardo, acknowledging that the Aussie has lost his way in F1 but insisting "there's still a capable driver in there".
Ricciardo transferred from Renault to McLaren at the end of the 2020 season after a two-stint with the French outfit that proved disappointing for both parties.
But the Australian driver's disengagement at the time - announced even before the Covid-delayed 2020 season had gotten underway - did not go down well with former team boss Cyril Abiteboul, while Group Renault chief executive Luca de Mao was reportedly also unimpressed.
Unfortunately, Ricciardo's two-year tenure with McLaren has been an even more disappointing experience for team and driver that led to papaya squad releasing the latter from his contract at the end of this season.
Ricciardo won all of his eight career wins in Formula 1 under Horner's guidance at Red Bull between 2014 and 2018. But today's Ricciardo is a far cry from the man who defeated fellow bull and teammate Sebastian Vettel and who raced on a par with Max Verstappen thereafter.
"It’s a great shame because I think he’s a big personality and he’s a great, great driver," said Horner in F1's latest Beyond the Grid podcast.
"He’s obviously lost his way a bit, but it would be great to see him remain in the sport."
However, Ricciardo's options appear limited. Open seats remain at Williams and Haas, but the 33-year-old signing up with a lower tier mid-field is a distinctly counter-intuitive prospect.
As for Alpine, it appears that every effort is being made to secure the services of Pierre Gasly, and while Ricciardo's name was mentioned early on as a strong contender for Fernando Alonso's seat, the Aussie's potential application now seems to sit near the bottom of the pile.
Would Horner nevertheless advise Alpine to hire back its former driver?
"I probably would, to be honest with you," said the Red Bull team boss. "I think that they obviously know him from a couple of seasons ago, and he was very together during his last season there, scoring podiums.
"He’s the type of guy that I think you could rebuild him, it’s obviously not been a great experience for him, for whatever reason.
"Like in all sports, confidence is a big element and for whatever reason, he hasn’t got the feeling from the car and across two sets of regulations.
"That’s probably eating away at his confidence but there’s still a very, very capable driver in there and you don’t just forget how to deliver.
"I hope for him he gets another opportunity."