Daniel Ricciardo’s former race engineer has said he was surprised at the nature of Daniel Ricciardo after he came back to the team, describing him as “hollow.”
Ricciardo returned to Red Bull this year after a few troubling seasons at McLaren which appeared to see him lose all confidence driving a Formula 1 car.
But it was not just racing ability that took a turn for the worse with Simon Rennie describing the Australian as “hollow” upon his return to Milton Keynes.
Daniel Ricciardo a different man upon return to Red Bull
Ricciardo made his way back to Red Bull barely recognisable from the bubbly and happy-go-lucky man that had departed for Renault a few years earlier.
The Australian has since rediscovered his love of the sport and while he is again out of action due to a hand injury, he has been reflecting on his first days back at the team.
“So it started with the simulator,” Ricciardo told the Talking Bull podcast. “The first thing I did in 2023 was a couple sim sessions and that was just for me to get back into the groove, to learn the car but just kind of get back into my flow.”
Ricciardo was joined by Rennie who had been the Australian’s race engineer during the first Red Bull stint and Rennie admitted he was surprised at the “hollow” Ricciardo that had returned.
“I don’t think that was as easy as you thought it was going to be,” Rennie said of Ricciardo’s early sim sessions. “I was thinking, when he first came back, I was quite surprised. Knowing Daniel, when he came back how he was and I didn’t say this to you at the time.
“You were definitely not as confident as I know you are and you were just like a little bit hollow in a way. It felt like you were doubting yourself a little bit and you were a bit concerned about whether you could do it again.
“Because obviously you’d had good success with us and you’ve had the last couple years which haven’t been quite as successful and it didn’t necessarily click straightaway in the simulator.
“I don’t know if you left with a good feeling or not after that first day but you still seemed a little bit unsure of it all. Then you went away, had a bit of time off at home and then the next time you’re in, it’s like you were already a bit more bouncy.”
It was not just Rennie who noticed a change in Ricciardo’s attitude with team boss Christian Horner expressing a surprise at his former pupil.
Ricciardo though was ready to hear every and all criticism from those within the Red Bull team as he sought to rediscover his form.
“It’s good in a way,” he said of Horner’s comments. “I don’t mind hearing that at all because it also makes me feel a little bit better in a way about last year. Because obviously my results weren’t what I expected for myself, what anyone probably expected for me and I think stepping out of that and having a bit of time off over summer and knowing I wasn’t going to be racing this year just [gave me] time to think about other things.
“Then obviously getting back in I became aware I had lost a little bit of something internally and [Rennie] is right like the first day, I was yes still unsure and probably still some, call it habits maybe from the past year were still there. So it took me a little bit of time to kind of start fresh.
“I think that’s why it took a good day to empty it all and go from there.”