Daniel Ricciardo says that he sees parallels between his second coming in Formula 1 and the trajectory of his team AlphaTauri which is set to open a new chapter in its history.
The Aussie returned to the grid last summer after a hiatus of several months in the wake of his departure from McLaren at the end of last year.
Having committed to a reserve role with Red Bull, Ricciardo was called up by AlphaTauri to replace Nyck de Vries following the Dutchman’s disappointing stint with the team during the first half of the season.
Unfortunateley, Ricciardo’s return was cut short after just two races when a crash in FP1 at Zandvoort resulted in a fractured hand that sent him back to the sidelines for two months as he recovered from the complicated injury.
He returned to the fray once again in Austin and scored his first points a week later in Mexico City before embarking on the final races of 2023.
It’s been an encouraging period for the 34-year-old, and one that has allowed him to rediscover the joy of racing and reignited his passion for F1.
With his McLaren woes now permanently situated in the rear-view mirror, Ricciardo has found himself back in an environment where he feels valued and appreciated.
And the feeling is mutual inside AlphaTauri, which is on the verge of rebuilding itself and undergoing an identity change for 2024.
“There’s a lot for me in coming back that’s really exciting,” said Ricciardo. “There’s a team that is rebuilding, a little bit like how I’ve done this phase in my career, so we’re all on a similar path.
“I would say there’s a lot of confidence, and I think the team has a lot of faith in me.
“They still see me as a Red Bull driver and the results I had there, and not as a McLaren driver with the results I had there.
“So we’re all in a good place. I really look forward to a proper off-season and a pre-season. I think 2024 is going to be exciting for us.”
Looking back on his seven races with AlphaTauri, Ricciardo says that he felt “pretty happy” with his race pace but conceded that qualifying is an area where he needs to improve for 2024.
The Aussie suggested that he and race engineer Pierre Hamelin still need to get their act together on Saturdays to unlock his underlying pace.
“I feel like the race, the more laps I get in the car, the more I kind of understand it and get into a rhythm,” he said.
“Quali there were certainly some standouts, and then some, like Abu Dhabi, where we didn’t quite get fully on top of it.
“Look, as experienced as I am, and as much as I believe in myself, my engineer Pierre worked with three drivers this year, trying to set up the car for each driver, what we like, what we don’t, and it wasn’t easy for him.
“If I look at Brazil and Abu Dhabi, qualifying was the Achilles heel, and I’ll obviously take some responsibility for that, not maybe putting the best lap together.
“The pace is there, so it’s just really sorting out the one-lap pace, other than Mexico and a couple of others. But there’s a lot to be encouraged about.”