Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023

Red Bull discovered “habits” Ricciardo picked up from other cars’ “limitations”

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo has made some telling changes to his driving style during the four years he spent away from Red Bull, according to team principal Christian Horner.

The eight-times grand prix winner has returned to the team he raced for between 2014 and 2018. Ricciardo spent two years at Renault (now Alpine) and two more at McLaren in the interim.

His McLaren spell ended in disappointment, as the team cut short his contract by a year due to poor performance. Ricciardo subsequently agreed to return to Red Bull in a test and reserve driver role and has already returned to work in their simulator.

The Australian driver is attending his country’s round of the world championship with the team. “It’s great to have him back in blue,” said Horner in today’s FIA press conference at the track.

“This is the first grand prix he is attending this year,” Horner continued. “He’s really throwing himself into it, sitting in all the briefings. He’s been working hard in the simulator as well in the UK, doing some race support and some development work on that.”

Following the tough circumstances of his departure from McLaren, Horner believes Ricciardo is “getting his mojo back” but said his enthusiasm for the sport has taken a knock.

“He lights up a room when he walks in,” said Horner. “His popularity in Formula 1 – even though he’s not driving, he’s still probably the most popular driver here.

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“For us, it’s just positive to have him in the team, contributing to the team, to the drivers, to the engineering team. Hopefully he’ll rediscover his love for the sport.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023
Sabbatical or retirement? Ricciardo returns to F1 paddock – and questions over his future
Red Bull intend for Ricciardo to “do a bit of testing for us later in the year” in the RB19. “We’ll see how that goes for him. But I think it’s a different experience.

“It must be very tough for him not being a race driver this weekend but he’s thrown himself in and embracing this new role.”

Ricciardo found himself unable to match the performance of team mate Lando Norris during his time at McLaren. Horner said it was clear Ricciardo had tried to adapt his driving to the different cars he had experienced since leaving Red Bull.

“When he first turned up after Abu Dhabi – I think the problem is when you drive a car that obviously has its limitation you adapt and you try and adjust to extract the maximum out of that car. And it was clear when he came back that he picked up some habits that we didn’t recognise as the Daniel that had left us two or three years earlier.

“But having had time off over Christmas and so on and a chance to reset when he’s come back and got into the 2023 work, he’s hit the ground running.”

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Ricciardo “likes the feel of the car in the virtual world which seems to correlate well with what we’re seeing in the actual world,” Horner added.

“He’s desperate to get a run in the car at some point to validate that. But we’re certainly seeing him getting back to being far more reminiscent of the Daniel that we knew.”

While Ricciardo shares reserve duties with two Red Bull junior drivers, Horner believes he’s “about 10 minutes away from being ready” to step in should the team need a replacement for Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez. “He’s in good shape. He’s kept himself fit and well.”

Horner jokingly told McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown “we’ve had to feed him up a bit – I don’t know what you guys did to him, but he came back looking a bit skinny.

“But he’s looking healthier now. And I think he’s training hard and he’s ready to go, given the chance.”

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22 comments on “Red Bull discovered “habits” Ricciardo picked up from other cars’ “limitations””

  1. One such habit was probably driving dog slow, much slower than said other, more “limited” cars would allow.

    1. @proesterchen I understand why you say that, but it does not feel fair towards Ricciardo. In his first years at Red Bull he was considered one of the very best, and now as one of the very worst? Strange what lack of confidence and feel in the car does with your performance. Same with Vettel between 2013 and 2014, a totally different driver. Or Hamilton in 2022 for that matter, or Schumacher in 2010. Same driver, same talent, same ambition (debatable), but sometimes the car and the driver don’t match.

      1. Schumacher was past his time. Both Vettel and Ricciardo changed teams. But Hamilton remained in the same team and not is he performing poorly (for a 7-time world champion) but his teammate has beaten him since joining the team.

        1. True, but that is semantics. My point is how can a driver that is considered to be one of the best of his time perform so poorly within one or a few years. The talent didn’t just vanish, so it must be something mental (motivation, self-belief) or not the right feeling in the car.

          1. Raikkonen would be a better example than schumacher imo, seeing as schumacher was over 40 on his comeback and otherwise performed well all years, while raikkonen was still quite young at ferrari, but he was no longer as competitive as he was at mclaren.

          2. @matthijs Then if he doesn’t adapt to a certain car he can’t be the ultimate driver. There are two kind of very good drivers. Those who can adapt to any car and those who can’t. Then there are racing drivers who are so one with the car they are impossible to beat. For me those are two different drivers. It’s up to a person if he thinks driving a car faster than anyone is consired a goat or does he have to drive other cars as well as the one.

        2. Schumacher was past his time.

          I think that might underrate MSC’s major race bike accident in 2009.

          It might not have been time catching up with him, but rather the – according to some reports quite severe – injuries he sustained, that resulted in his comeback performances. (We did, after all, see what Hungary 2009 did to Felipe Massa’s abilities.)

          1. Seeing ow Rosberg fared againt Hamilton later on, it s is fair to say that the comeback of Schumacher was judged a bit harshly at the time. Especially since he seemed to have come to terms with Rosberg at the end of his second career.
            He may have stacked up very well against a driver like f.e. Ocon, much like 40 year old Alonso did

            Still, it is a shame that we never saw what Schumacher in his prime could have done to a worthy opponent in the same car.

          2. Rosberg was quite awesome and in his prime. Without Hamilton – a GOAT candidate, Rosberg could reach Prost level of titles.

          3. I do agree that what Rosberg did after Schumacher retired ‘properly’ does suggest that perhaps Michaels comeback wasn’t as bad as it looked at the time. Nico never did anything particularly interesting at Williams and looked to be one of the Sutil / Trulli et al gang that were good on their day, but otherwise nothing more than decent.

            When we look at Michaels’ comeback, we should perhaps remind ourselves that Nico did in time get his elbows out and beat Lewis in the same car. If you told someone that at the end of 08′ – they’d never have believed you.

          4. beat Lewis in the same car

            Well, nothing out of the ordinary

            Jenson did it, Nico did it, George is doing it without breaking a sweat. Pretty much everyone but Nikita would do it

          5. “Fernando is faster than you” did more damage to Massa’s ability than his crash in 2009.

      2. Same with Vettel between 2013 and 2014, a totally different driver. Or Hamilton in 2022 for that matter

        There are commonalities between these two, namely a major change in car regulations leading to sub-par performance from a previously dominant team, and their lead driver suffering for it while his young gun teammate, moving up from a backmarker seat, seizing whatever opportunity this less-than-dominant car still offered.

        The same doesn’t apply to Dan, though. He was bad with both the old and the new generation McLaren.

  2. That is how I read it. Checo, couple of mistakes and you’re walking home. I like Checo he is doing fine, just dont fool around with Max!

  3. This kinda says a lot about Dani’s struggles in recent seasons. Hopefully Red Bull will give Checo the axe so we can see Dani in a top tier car again (wishful thinking)

  4. The Piranha Club chewed him up and spit him out. Poor Dan is done.

  5. It was really interesting how earlier this weekend drivers claimed they wouldn’t mind free practice sessions to be cut back even further. Lack of practice sessions and lack of testing in general might save cost, but at the same time might undermine the driver/car unity.

    During the early to mid 2000s when Ferrari dominated the field they could afford to hit their own testtrack 24/7 if they wished, delegating the hard work to Luca Badoer, or Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello could also take the wheel if they felt the need. They had all the time in the world to find the limits of the car. For better or worse this ended in 2009 when tests have been drastically reduced, and this was a new situation even to the mighty Schumacher, who couldn’t have the track time he was used to, and seemed to be coming to terms with his car slower than young gun Nico Rosberg. Being able to adapt to a new car is certainly an ability which wasn’t always obviously needed, but now a decent driver must have it. Does that change the reputation of Schumacher? For me certainly not, in his prime he was a beast, for his second career he just wanted to have fun, and maybe didn’t even mind the less involvement in tests.

    Sebastian Vettel delivered seemingly godlike performances in the blown diffuser cars especailly in 2011, he might have felt the best those cars. When that era ended, he seemed like a just-above-average driver in otherwise strong cars. Does that change the reputation of Vettel?

    What for Vettel were the blown diffusers, might have been the Renault power for Ricciardo with which he spent most of his career at Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Renault. I have absolutely no idea if different power trains working behind your back in the car could cause a feeling this different, but we cannot ignore the fact that McLaren ran and still runs its cars with Mercedes power. Ricciardo was (and still is, sorry, Checo) the only driver at Red Bull able to match Verstappen’s pace, and nobody questioned his talent or skills or abilities back in 2018, and with two strong seasons at Renault, albeit a bit further from the sharp end of the grid, his reputation was still intact in 2020. Norris was able to extract much more of the same cars in the last two seasons, scoring a load more points, he is clearly better at adapting to different cars. I’m also not sure if the ability to adapt could be improved or sharepened, but if it could, it could open up again the otherwise huge potential of Ricciardo which is still there, but currently not entierly accessible.

    1. How do you know Lando has the ability to adapt? He’s only ever been in one team. Maybe Lando is the real cause of McLaren’s troubles. They may have been developing concepts and the car based on his feedback when maybe they should have listened to Dan with experience from 2 other teams. All hypothetical but we don’t know what Lando is like at adapting to a new team, and car which is a lot different to what he is used to.

      1. Mooa42, James Key admitted late last year that both Norris and Ricciardo were making very similar complaints since 2021 about McLaren’s development direction, but McLaren’s technical department had overridden the complaints of both Norris and Ricciardo.

        Similarly, before testing the MCL-60, Norris was already saying that there were fundamental problems with the car and that the team has been applying the wrong design philosophy to their cars for too long. It was something that Stella conceded was true and that McLaren are now changing their design philosophy, although only doing so at a late stage and thus ending up with an under-developed car.

        Comparisons of the telemetry data from Norris and Ricciardo during the 2022 season do also suggest there is some merit to the argument about driver adaptability. The telemetry data indicated there was a change in Norris’s driving style after the opening few races, particularly the way that he applied the brakes on corner entry and the steering inputs he was making in slower corners, but there didn’t seem to be so much evidence of a comparable shift in driving style from Ricciardo’s telemetry traces.

      2. Thank you fellas for joining in, some really interesting thoughts here!
        @Mooa42: Obviously when changing teams a broader sense of adaptability is needed by the drivers, but I think when a different engine supplier comes forward, as Mercedes replaced Renault from 2020 to 2021, or as a completely new formula is introduced from 2021 to 2022, a massive amount of adaptability is required to get accustomed with the heavily changed cars even without swapping teams. You also raised a very good point about how Lando Norris is still somewhat of a relatively unknown force as we seen him slowly catching up with Sainz in his rookie and sophomore seasons, and dominating a confused Ricciardo. Joined by another rookie, regardless of how talented Piastri is, won’t reveal much more of Norris’ actual talent.

        @anon: Thank you for that, that was exactly what I also tried to get to, it doesn’t really matter how many thousands of kilometers a driver puts in different cars, if he cannot do the same with the one he actually has to drive.

    2. Coventry Climax
      31st March 2023, 23:55

      And look how Badoer fared, with all that testing he’d done, and ‘getting to be one with the car’, as you call it, when he got the chance to fill in and do a real race. A downright embarrassment.

      1. Coventry Climax, by the time that Badoer was asked to substitute for Massa in 2009, the introduction of restrictions on testing mileage in 2008 was a significant change that meant Badoer wasn’t testing anywhere near as much as you might think.

        When Badoer took part in the practice sessions for the European GP in August, it was the first time that he had driven the F60 – all of the testing until then had been done by Massa and Kimi – so he had zero familiarity with that car. In fact, he hadn’t driven any Formula 1 cars for nine months – the testing restrictions meant Badoer was effectively out of a job, and Ferrari had placed Badoer into semi-retirement by then.

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