Christian Horner has given an update as to how Daniel Ricciardo is getting on in his new role of third driver at Red Bull.
For the first time since 2010, the sight of a smiling Ricciardo has not been present on the Formula 1 grid with the Australian driver taking a sabbatical in all but name as he fulfils a third driver role having returned to former team Red Bull.
The 33-year-old has been clear that he still sees his future in the sport, suggesting he is aiming for a 2024 comeback, but for now he is enjoying life away from the pressures of the Formula 1 paddock.
He is back in the paddock for this weekend though as the sport returns to Ricciardo’s native Australia and as such, the topic of the Honey Badger’s future has been a much-talked-about one.
One man who has provided an update is Ricciardo’s boss Christian Horner who said he was “embracing this new role.”
“It’s great to have him back in blue and be back in the team,” he said in Friday’s team boss press conference. “This is his first time grand prix he’s attending this year and he’s really throwing himself into it.
“Sitting in all the briefings, he’s been working hard on the simulator in the UK doing some race support and some development work on that.”
“And then it is just a positive energy to have around and it’s great to see him getting his mojo back, to see that big smile on his face.”
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“He lights up a room when he walks in,” Horner continued, “and his popularity in Formula 1, even though he’s not driving, is still probably the most popular driver here.
“For us, it’s just positive to have him in the team contributing to the team, to the drivers, to the engineering team and hopefully he’ll rediscover his love for the sport.”
Should either of Sergio Perez or Max Verstappen be unavailable for a race this year, Ricciardo could step in to fill their place and Horner said the Australian is “10 minutes away from being ready.”
“He’ll do a bit of testing for us later in the year,” Horner said. “And we’ll see how that goes for him. But I think it’s a different experience. It must be very tough, not being a race driver this weekend but he’s thrown himself at embracing this new role.
“I’d say he’s about 10 minutes away from being ready. He’s in good shape. He’s kept himself fit and well. He’s training hard and he’s ready to go given the chance.”