Daniel Ricciardo’s journey through the highs and lows of Formula 1 has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride – and the latest loop-the-loop have been persistent rumours linking him back to the Red Bull Racing team. But what’s the real story behind these whispers?
“I think 12 months ago, a lot of the rumors were normally negative,” confessed the 34-year-old Ricciardo, speaking with international media last weekend in Abu Dhabi.
Indeed, just a year ago, Ricciardo’s Formula 1 career seemed to be hanging by a vanishing thread. After a tumultuous stint with Renault and a disappointing spell at McLaren, his future in the sport appeared uncertain. But as fate would have it, Red Bull – the camp he abandoned – came to the rescue.
Indeed, Ricciardo was reasonably dumped by McLaren for poor performance, but his career was reignited when Red Bull welcomed him back to the grid midway through the 2023 season. He stepped in to replace the struggling Nyck de Vries at Red Bull’s junior team, Alpha Tauri, and immediately made an impact.
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner was quick to commend Ricciardo’s return, sparking widespread speculation that the Australian might be poised to replace Sergio Perez at the main team.
“Daniel is a great guy who was very badly advised earlier in his career,” Horner remarked in a recent interview. “Everybody messes up at some point, and I think he recognized that he made a mistake.”
These comments from Horner only fueled the rumors further. But how does Ricciardo feel about the chatter still linking him to a reunion with Red Bull’s top team?
“Whether it’s a rumor or not, I would never have thought 12 to 18 months ago that it would ever be said that I one day might return to Red Bull,” he revealed, his smile ever-present.
Red Bull’s top brass, including Horner and Dr. Helmut Marko, have consistently denied any truth to the speculation surrounding Perez’s 2024 contract. Nevertheless, Ricciardo remains unfazed.
“Even though it’s just a rumor, I just didn’t think such a rumor could exist, so it makes me smile,” he admitted, displaying his trademark optimism.
Far from viewing it as pressure, Ricciardo sees these rumors as a source of inspiration. “It just gives me a lot of courage that through the highs and lows, the ups and downs, if you stay on the straight and narrow, crazy things can happen,” he declared.
And what if these rumors turn out to be true someday? “I said it would be a fairytale to end my career as a Red Bull driver, but I still use the word fairytale because I know it’s certainly not guaranteed,” Ricciardo mused.
For now, though, Ricciardo has committed to staying with Alpha Tauri next year, alongside his current teammate Yuki Tsunoda. The decision was made by the Red Bull camp while Ricciardo was recovering from a recent hand injury.
“I’m very happy that I have a seat next year, and I’m very happy that they signed me when I was on the sidelines crying about my hand,” Ricciardo said with a chuckle.
“At the end of the day, I’m just happy to be back in the Red Bull family, and even though it’s not the big team, I’m just in a really good place here.”