Christian Horner has described Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Formula 1 as one of the stories of the season after the driver looked like he was done with the sport.
Ricciardo’s mood now compared to last season are poles apart, with the Australian facing an uncertain future 12 months ago having been let go by McLaren.
But a year on and Ricciardo is back in F1 with a smile on his face, ready for another season at AlphaTauri in 2024.
Daniel Ricciardo’s engineering work the most useful says Christian Horner
It was Horner’s decision to keep Ricciardo in the sport with Red Bull opting to bring him in as a third driver.
But the driver that arrived on their doorstep in Milton Keynes seemed entirely different from the one that had left four years earlier and Horner did admit it took a while for the old Ricciardo they knew to return.
“It’s great to see Daniel back in Formula 1,” Horner told Sky Sports. “I think it was something I was very keen to bring him back into the fold over the winter.
“When he came to us, you could see he was pretty much done with Formula 1. He wasn’t enjoying it.
“But slowly that smile came back, that energy came back and certainly the tests he did in Silverstone for us midseason were truly, truly impressive and the work behind the scenes on the simulator.”
Having had a break away from the sport, Ricciardo was given another shot with Red Bull opting to drop Nyck de Vries after the British Grand Prix and bring back Ricciardo.
Since then, he has looked like a driver reborn and put in some good performances towards the end of the year.
But as to what has been most beneficial to the team, Horner believes it is the engineering experience the former Renault driver brings.
“He deserved the chance in the AlphaTauri, he was unlucky then to break his hand in Zandvoort but I thought he drove very well this year,” Horner stated.
“Most importantly, he put some engineering direction into the team with the experience he had and I think that really benefited the AlphaTauri team.”