The Fernando Alonso conversation which foreshadowed Daniel Ricciardo’s break

Oliver Harden
Daniel Ricciardo smiles as he walks through the paddock ahead of his F1 return with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo smiles as he walks through the paddock ahead of his F1 return with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo has revealed that the idea of taking a break from F1 was inspired by a conversation he had with fellow returnee Fernando Alonso.

Having lost his McLaren seat at the end of 2022 after two disappointing seasons, Ricciardo opted to sit out the first half of 2023 by returning to Red Bull as the team’s reserve driver.

Ricciardo had expected to spend a full season out of action, but made a sensational return to racing action with AlphaTauri at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, where he outpaced team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in both qualifying and the race to finish 13th.

Fernando Alonso planted F1 sabbatical seed in Daniel Ricciardo’s mind

Alonso took a two-year sabbatical from F1 at the end of the 2018 season to compete in the historic Le Mans 24 Hours, IndyCar and Dakar Rally events before returning with Alpine in 2021.

Having switched to Aston Martin over the winter Alonso has excelled in the first half of 2023 and, at the age of 41, finished on the podium in six of the first eight races.

Speaking after the race in Budapest, Ricciardo revealed that the idea of a break was planted in his mind by a conversation he had with Alonso over his sabbatical in 2021, with the two-time World Champion holding no regrets about his time away from F1.

And the Australian explained that Alonso’s exploits this year gave him the belief that he too could shine on his return to the cockpit.

He told media: “I really feel that just having this half a year off – even if it wasn’t the year I expected – half a year still made me certainly just kind of reset myself and feel energised again.

“Actually, I remember having a conversation with Fernando maybe two years ago now. I wasn’t thinking of taking a break, but we were just having a chat I think on a flight somewhere and he said the break for him was one of the best things he ever did.

“That kind of got me thinking that maybe if I ever feel I need it, then not to be too scared of it.

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“And then I think seeing the year he’s had also filled me with some confidence, so really glad to have been put in this position and come back feeling everything normal again. The grid, the start, the emotions – I enjoyed it all.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was full of praise for Ricciardo upon his return to action, hinting after qualifying that getting him to enjoy his racing again is key after two punishing years at McLaren.

“You can see he’s enjoying it, which is the most important thing, because if Daniel is enjoying driving, you’re going to get more from him,” he said.

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