Disclosed: What Christian Horner told Daniel Ricciardo in Australian GP grid chat

Michelle Foster
RB driver Daniel Ricciardo with his eyes closed on the grid

Daniel Ricciardo's early-season auditions have not gone to plan

Daniel Ricciardo’s dream of a return to Red Bull is not over, with Christian Horner adamant it is “very early” in the season to make that call.

One of several drivers vying for Sergio Perez’s race seat for the 2025 season, Ricciardo’s early-season auditions have not gone to plan.

Daniel Ricciardo insists he’s not ‘lost’ as he was at McLaren

Failing to match his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in qualifying, even Ricciardo’s disallowed 1:17.466 from Q1 in Australia was slower than Tsunoda’s best time in that session.

But with Ricciardo losing that lap time for exceeding track limits, he not only didn’t make it out of Q1 but found himself at the very back of the Albert Park grid.

He worked his way up to 12th place but never looked to be in contention for a points finish while Tsunoda, who qualified eighth, brought his VCARB01 home in seventh place to score RB’s first points of the championship.

All, though, is not lost for Ricciardo and the dream of returning to Red Bull next season, with the Honey Badger revealing Horner’s words of encouragement in the build-up to the race.

“He just wished me well and just told me to keep my head down and just not be discouraged,” he told F1TV.

Not for the first time, the eight-time Grand Prix winner insisted his current RB troubles are nothing like his time at McLaren when he was floundering for answers.

“Obviously, I know how I feel, and maybe not everyone does. But it’s a very different situation to McLaren,” he added.

“I think especially 2022, I was running on very, very little confidence. I was kind of confused with the car and I didn’t really understand it. That was a completely different thing.

“We’re certainly not achieving what we thought we would be, but it’s not through being lost.”

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The good news for Ricciardo is there is still plenty of time to fight back, which Horner believes he can do.

“He’s had a tough weekend, haven’t really looked at his race yet but pretty similar pace to Yuki in the race,” Horner said.

“He had a tough day yesterday [qualifying] getting that lap disallowed. So just just want to give him a bit of encouragement.

“He’s a big boy, he’ll pick himself up but sometimes being a Formula 1 driver is a bit lonely so a bit of encouragement is never a bad thing.”

Pressed on whether Ricciardo’s early-season form has taken him out of the running for the 2025 Red Bull seat, Horner replied: “It is very early in the year to be thinking about that.”

The team boss, though, did make it clear that it’s not just Ricciardo and Tsunoda who will be considered alongside Perez with Red Bull open to looking outside their own driver pool.

“We want to field the best pairing that we can at Red Bull Racing. Sometimes, you’ve got to look outside the pool as well,” he said.

His comment came as Carlos Sainz won the Australian Grand Prix with Horner saying he won’t “rule out” re-signing the Spaniard, who made his F1 debut with Red Bull’s junior team.

As for Ricciardo, his RB seat is certainly safe for now as reports circulating that he had been given an ultimatum and faces losing his seat to Liam Lawson are very premature.

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