Christian Horner: ‘Daniel Ricciardo unrecognisable as a driver compared to Red Bull days’

Sam Cooper
Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo embrace. Monaco, May 2018.

Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo embrace after the latter won the Monaco Grand Prix. Monaco, May 2018.

Christian Horner says he does not recognise Daniel Ricciardo as a driver now compared to his time racing for Red Bull.

The Australian spent five seasons at Red Bull that produced the finest form of his career to date. With the Milton Keynes-based outfit, Ricciardo won seven races, finished on the podium 13 times and ended the 2016 season third in the Drivers’ standings.

He opted to join Renault in 2019 before leaving to move to McLaren in 2021, but now finds himself at a crossroads with that team announcing he will not be staying with them past the current campaign.

Horner is the team principal to have been able to get the best out of the Honey Badger and admitted it was “very sad” to see his departure from McLaren – and even confessed he could not recognise Ricciardo as the same driver he was from his Red Bull days.

“Obviously I’m not close to it,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 following FP2 for the Belgian Grand Prix. “I’ve spoken to Daniel a little bit but I don’t recognise him as the same driver he was when he was with us.

He’s one of the best guys out there. He’s definitely got that capability and I hope he finds a seat in Formula 1. I hope he finds his mojo because if you think back to some of the races he drove for us, winning the Monaco Grand Prix with 50% of the power… he put in some amazing performances.

“You have to think when he was alongside Seb [Vettel], when he first came into the team, how he delivered, how close he was. Obviously with Max [Verstappen] as well. Obviously tough for him, but I really hope he finds something for the future.”

Ricciardo’s plans are currently unknown and while he did confirm in Thursday’s press conference he had not signed any contract, there have been offers. Horner said he hopes his former driver can find a team that is able to put the smile back on the Australian’s face.

“His confidence has been zapped. We were used to seeing him on the podium, doing shoeys, messing around with that big smile and we don’t see any of that anymore,” said Horner. “I hope for him he finds an opportunity to further his career because I think Formula 1 would be better off having him in this championship than not.”

With persistent stories that the McLaren car just did not suit Ricciardo’s style, Horner was also quizzed on if Ricciardo were to hop back in the Red Bull car would he be able to match Verstappen’s speed.

“We saw how close those guys were,” Horner replied. “Max has evolved since Daniel left the team but Daniel on his day, he was right there. He put in some amazing performances and we were sad to see him leave the team.”