Ricciardo: Signs pointing to F1 return
By Mat Coch
Friday 31st March, 2023 - 6:00am
Daniel Ricciardo has confessed the early signs are pointing towards chasing an F1 return after a year on the sidelines.
Ricciardo and McLaren opted to not continue their relationship into this season after two difficult campaigns together.
He took on a third driver role with Red Bull as a way of remaining involved in the sport while assessing his options.
That has seen him in action commercially for the team.
On Thursday, his first day back in an F1 paddock since the end of 2022, he raced from Albert Park to an event with Mick Fanning where the pair launched a new partnership between Red Bull and Yeti.
He’s also spent time in Detroit with Ford and will be used later in the year for demonstration runs in the United States.
Three months into 2023 and the Australian is both happy and relaxed with his decision but admits the competitive juices are flowing.
Ricciardo leaning towards F1 return
“I’ve actually weirdly found the days that I’ve had no schedule, they’re the days that I’ve actually done training,” Ricciardo told selected media, including Speedcafe.
“It’s not being my own boss but kind of writing my own schedule has actually brought out a lot of things in me.
“I thought I’ll just sit on the couch and watch movies all day and eat junk food, but I’m not. That’s not me.
“So even these things made me realise how much I do care about it [F1].
“The signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid,” he affirmed.
“I feel like that’s currently where I’m tracking, at least in my head and just a little few other habits that I’m having or doing is pointed towards that.”
Happy on the sidelines
This weekend is his first back in an F1 paddock since last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
He is supporting Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez but is for the most part an interested onlooker with Red Bull.
“The fizz is there,” he confirmed when asked by Speedcafe if attending the circuit on Thursday tempted him back.
“I’m also content being here this weekend and not racing. I’m content just being part of the team.
“I’m kind of in a position now, I’m happy to learn from the outside because I think I will see more.
“I feel like I still need a bit of this time to understand a little more, with the perspective I’ve got to kind of complete me as a driver moving forward.
“So I’m not yet chomping at the bit to get in the car but it does feel good to be here.
“I’m going to sit on the pit wall during the sessions and I’m sure I’ll be like watching the drivers pull out of the pits and be like ‘oh, it would be cool to be in the car’,” he added.
“But I’m not yet foaming at the mouth.
“I’m still just trying to be a sponge.
“I see the advantage, of course; every driver on the grid now has the advantage of being behind the wheel.
“But I have the advantage of looking at it through a wide-angle lens.”
The complication when it comes to an F1 return for Ricciardo is few teams have openings.
Red Bull is settled with Verstappen and Perez, and Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Lewis Hamilton is out of contract, with opinions split on whether the seven-time world champion will continue alongside George Russell.
Outwardly, both the team and Hamilton are suggesting they will renew that relationship.
Down the order, there are possibilities at Sauber – as Alfa Romeo will revert for 2024 – or potentially Williams or Haas.
Those are less appealing or longer-term projects, which Ricciardo opted against in favour at the end of last year.
It, therefore, begs the question: even if he decides to pursue a return, where would he go?
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