Said to be facing a brutal reality check when he drives the AT04, Daniel Ricciardo insists he’s “not really scared” about the car’s “limitations”.
Scoring just two points this season in what is arguably the slowest car on the grid, AlphaTauri are sitting bottom of the standings with the team making the surprise call to change their driver line-up ahead of the summer break.
Jettisoning out the point-less Nyck de Vries and putting Ricciardo into his race seat, AlphaTauri have thrown the dice in a bid to at the very least overhaul Alfa Romeo to avoid the wooden spoon.
Daniel Ricciardo: I appreciate the car is going to have its limitations
But for Ricciardo, the Honey Badger back on the grid having stated last season that he wanted time to heal after two confusing campaigns with McLaren, it could be a difficult return to the team with whom he last raced in 2013.
The AlphaTauri AT04 has notable weaknesses, one of which is rear-end stability, a problem that tripped up the late-braking Ricciardo during his time at McLaren.
He, however, insists he goes into his second stint with the Red Bull junior team well aware of the challenges that await.
“I’m excited about it,” Ricciardo said in an interview on F1’s YouTube channel. “It’s a challenge for sure to jump in and try to hit the ground running.
“But also, I feel like I’ve been through a lot the last few years where I’m not really scared of anything that’s going to be thrown my way.
“I appreciate the car is going to have its limitations. It might not have as much grip as the Red Bull I drove a few days ago but, if it feels relatively balanced, then that’s something I can work with.
“They expect results, performances, but I think until I get in the car, it’s hard to define what that is. Is it a P8? Is it a P14? I don’t think there’s pressure until the summer break.
Daniel Ricciardo: In the back of my mind I knew maybe I will get a call
But while six months ago Ricciardo was adamant he wanted time to regain his mojo, the driver says when he received Helmut Marko’s phone call on Tuesday morning, he didn’t even have to think about it – his answer was always going to be yes.
“I didn’t really need to think much about it,” Ricciardo said. “Being back in this [Red Bull] family, I feel like I’m just going through it all again and these are the calls that I used to get.
“So, there was no question that I was going to say yes. It was just the reality of ‘OK, it’s going to happen pretty soon’.
“I’ve been part of the Red Bull family for so long. And I know that these things can happen. So even though I was for sure taking some time off this year, in the back of my mind I knew maybe I will get a call.”
He revealed the desire to return to the grid was actually sparked when he attended America’s Super Bowl and recalled the excitement of being in a “competitive environment”.
“It was probably around the time I went to Super Bowl, being in a competitive environment again, I think that was where I started to get some of those feelings back,” he explained.
“And I was like, this feeling hasn’t gone yet, that I would love to just be under the lights and just compete right now. So that was certainly a moment where it all started to turn around.
“I wasn’t like foaming at the mouth back in Melbourne, but it was building.
“Monaco was where I was watching qualifying, and it was a very exciting one. And that’s where I was really starting to get like: ‘Ah, being in a car around here would be really fun.'”