Daniel Ricciardo regrets his past ‘me, me, me’ Red Bull attitude

Oliver Harden
Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull garage. Melbourne, April 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull garage. Melbourne, April 2023.

Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo has acknowledged that he was “too selfish” during his previous Formula 1 spell at the team.

Ricciardo was regarded as a potential World Champion during his time as a Red Bull grand prix star, winning seven races in blue between 2014 and 2018.

The Australian made the shock decision to join Renault in the summer of 2018, spending two seasons at Enstone before joining McLaren in 2021.

Ricciardo ended the team’s nine-year wait for a win at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, but consistently lacklustre performances alongside team-mate Lando Norris saw him dropped by McLaren at the end of the 2022 season.

He returned to Red Bull as the team’s reserve driver for 2023 and attended a race for the first time in his new role at last month’s Australian GP, with the 33-year-old hopeful of returning to a full-time seat next season.

With his time away from racing offering a chance to reflect, Ricciardo says he suffered from the sense of entitlement that affects many young drivers during his last stint at Red Bull.

He told The Athletic: “I come at it from a different point of view now.

“Even looking back at 2018…it was just all about me, me, me.

“In all these young drivers, I see it. That’s just how we are.

“At times, I reacted a little too selfishly to a bad weekend.

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“Now, I’m back with the team, but I’d say it’s a very selfless role.

“I’ve got no hidden agenda. There’s no ego. I’m not too proud.

“I’m trying to build myself back up.”

During his visit to Melbourne, Ricciardo admitted a return to F1 in 2024 would hinge on certain “terms and conditions” being met with the Australian unwilling to come back at any cost.

Ricciardo was strongly linked to a move to the Haas team when his departure from McLaren was announced last summer, but opted to step away from F1 rather than settle for a seat at a midfield outfit.

Sergio Perez success a reminder of what Daniel Ricciardo could have won

Ricciardo’s shock departure at the end of 2018 was partly influenced by a niggling feeling that the wind was blowing only in one direction at Red Bull, that this was rapidly becoming Max Verstappen’s team.

It was true – Verstappen’s natural talent is enough to make any team buckle at the knees – but Ricciardo was wrong to conclude there was no role for him in that environment.

Daniel could so easily have been the Jenson Button to Max’s Lewis Hamilton, cramping Verstappen’s style and slowing the process of the team coming under his command.

With only a select number of cars capable of winning races at any given time, there are worse fates for an F1 driver.

Could that be what Daniel is referring to when he references his own selfishness – an inability to assess the bigger picture in a high-pressure environment that prioritises today?

Recent reports that Red Bull did not recognise the driver that left them when he drove the simulator upon his return – his technique skewed by his bruising time at McLaren – only seemed to confirm that Daniel would have been better off staying put back in 2018.

As momentum gathers behind Perez, just six points behind Verstappen after two victories from the first four races of 2023, what would peak Ricciardo have been capable of in that second Red Bull?

His comfort within the team and intrinsic knowledge of the car would likely have guaranteed a higher baseline performance than Perez, a driver of the same age who has had to build up to this point since his arrival at Red Bull in 2021.

He would have almost certainly won more races over that time frame than Perez and, in 2023, would have been in with his best shot of winning the title he left Red Bull to pursue almost five years ago.

While Perez goes from strength to strength, Daniel now watches on – sometimes from afar, sometimes from the garage – all too aware of what he could have won.

See the driver taking the fight to Verstappen in 2023? That should have been him.