Christian Horner has had a little dig at Zak Brown over former McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo, saying Red Bull “didn’t recognise” him with all the “habits” he’d picked up since leaving the team.
Ricciardo left Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, spending two seasons with Renault before signing a three-year contract with McLaren.
But after just two seasons and with the Honey Badger admitting he couldn’t figure out why he was struggling so much, McLaren and the driver opted to part ways.
Ricciardo was offered the chance to join Haas but turned that down in a favour of a year on the sidelines as Red Bull’s reserve driver, saying it was “like going home to Mum and Dad.”
It’s no surprise then that Horner’s first job was to feed him.
“We’ve had to feed him up a bit,” he quipped at Brown during the team boss press conference in Melbourne. “I don’t know what you guys did to him!
“He came back looking a bit skinny, but he’s looking healthier now. I think that he’s training hard and he’s ready to go given the chance.”
Horner shared his thoughts on where it went wrong for Ricciardo at McLaren.
“I think the problem is when you drive a car that obviously has its limitations,” he said, “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 were not… 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 and I think he likes the feel of the car in the virtual world which seems to correlate well with what we’re seeing in the actual world.
“And I think 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.”
As for Brown, the McLaren CEO was happy to see Ricciardo back in the paddock in Melbourne where the Honey Badger has been all smiles.
“I’m thrilled he’s here this weekend,” said the American. “I think we’re all big Daniel fans and as Christian said, he lights up a room when he walks in and smiles and yeah, I don’t think he knows exactly why it didn’t click.
“Sometimes drivers just need to recharge their batteries. Fernando did, Alain Prost did etc, over the years so hopefully Daniel will get an opportunity to go and try and win his ninth grand prix and many more, because I think we’d all love to see him back on the grid on a regular basis.”