Daniel Ricciardo’s journey with McLaren was a rollercoaster ride of challenges and unexpected twists. The Australian driver’s three-year stint with the team was initially promising, but compatibility issues with McLaren’s Formula 1 vehicle ultimately led to an early departure.
Throughout his time at McLaren, Ricciardo faced a series of hurdles, falling behind his teammate, Lando Norris, which was a surprising turn of events considering his remarkable victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix. Despite this victory, Ricciardo found himself yearning for something different, something that would align better with his driving style and preferences.
“I don’t want to get into that detail ever again.”
Ricciardo’s talents did not go unnoticed, as Red Bull swiftly brought him on board as their third driver during his break. However, fate had more in store for him. A fresh opportunity presented itself when he was called upon as the early replacement for Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s sister team, just before the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Stepping into AlphaTauri’s AT04 car, Ricciardo’s initial experiences were promising. Adapting to the nuances of a new car proved to be a challenge, but Ricciardo remains resolute in his determination to conquer it. As he expressed to Motorsport.com, “I’m excited to embrace the learning curve and refine my approach further.”
Reflecting on his tenure at McLaren, Ricciardo shared insights into his transformation. He mentioned that his time at McLaren prompted him to reevaluate his driving style, leading to what Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, referred to as an “unrecognisable” change. This evolution in his driving approach became evident during his impressive performance at the Silverstone tyre test.
“I think even through year one at McLaren, at the summer break I learned we were probably going into too much. We needed to change the approach a little bit.
“It was all in everyone’s best interests trying to make it work but I felt like I’ve come to the realisation that wasn’t working for me. We still probably did too much in hindsight, but maybe that works for another driver, so it is what it is.”
Returning to the AlphaTauri team, Ricciardo found a sense of familiarity and comfort. The AT04 car resonated more with his natural driving rhythm, even in the face of its aerodynamic challenges. Sharing his first impressions of the car, Ricciardo enthusiastically stated, “The AT04 feels like an extension of myself on the track.”
“On lap one I already felt like I was getting kind of the feedback that maybe I would expect or like, so that was important.
“Maybe I’ll find things that I’ve just got to work on that don’t quite correlate to my feeling, so I expect still some maybe challenges along the way.
“But the first impression was that it did give me a little bit more of a familiar feeling. That was also important because I was hoping to feel something like that.”
Looking ahead, Ricciardo remains optimistic about his collaboration with AlphaTauri. He acknowledges the potential challenges that lie ahead but is committed to facing them head-on. His initial outings with the team reignited a feeling he had missed—a combination of familiarity and excitement—that bodes well for the future.