Why Daniel Ricciardo is ‘one the last guys’ Nico Rosberg likes to see

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, in street clothes. Hungary, July 2023.

AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo in the paddock in street clothes. Hungary, July 2023.

2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg placed Daniel Ricciardo alongside Max Verstappen as “one of the last guys” he wanted to see in his mirrors harrying him during his Formula 1 career.

While Rosberg and Ricciardo found themselves in front-running machinery from 2014-16, it was Rosberg at the wheel of the dominant Mercedes challengers, while Ricciardo at Red Bull could often be found positioned in that queue looking to capitalise on any openings.

Ricciardo would win four grands prix during that period, going on to add three more across the 2017 and 2018 campaigns after Rosberg had retired following his 2016 title success.

Nico Rosberg with a nod to ability of Daniel Ricciardo

For Rosberg, his main rival in those years of Mercedes dominance was his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, while Verstappen burst onto the Red Bull scene in 2016, winning on debut in Spain.

Rosberg though heaped praise on not only Verstappen, but Ricciardo’s ability too by picking them as the two drivers who had him sweating when they lined-up for an attack.

Speaking to Sky F1 after Daniel Ricciardo’s return in F1 2023 with Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri was confirmed, Rosberg said: “We’re all thrilled to see him back.

“He’s such an awesome personality, one of the best wheel-to-wheel racers out there.

“If I saw in my rear-view mirrors, [Ricciardo] was one of the last guys I would like to see there at the time, with Max Verstappen, so it’s great to see him back.”

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Ricciardo had dropped off the F1 grid at the end of 2022 as his former team McLaren took the decision to end his contract a year early after two underwhelming seasons.

He is back now though with AlphaTauri and resumed life with the Faenza squad at the Hungarian GP, outqualifying team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, while feeling like his chances of points were scuppered by a hit from Zhou Guanyu at the race start.

But, with Ricciardo getting behind the wheel of the AlphaTauri AT04 which has scored only two points all season, leaving AlphaTauri at the bottom of the standings, Rosberg on the Sky F1 podcast analysed what exactly success would look like for Ricciardo in the remainder of the F1 2023 campaign, having replaced Nyck de Vries.

In that though, he criticised Ricciardo’s approach of openly stating his desire to return to Red Bull, with Sergio Perez currently struggling alongside Verstappen in the RB19.

“Well, it’s going to be really dominating Tsunoda, it’s going to be getting some points, some strong races,” said Rosberg on how Ricciardo makes this AlphaTauri loan spell a success.

“And then it depends on Perez also, if Perez continues this difficult form, then there could be a chance, but it’s going to be a big ask.

“But anyway, I think Daniel made a bit of a mistake to mention that interest in going back to Red Bull Racing, because it just adds…the whole focus now on him is like, is he going to manage to do this? And it’s all about that, and it shouldn’t be, it should be about him just racing for AlphaTauri and try to do a good job. That’s it.

“So it’s a mistake for him to to put so much focus on ‘I’m only here because I want to get back to Red Bull Racing’. That’s the big lesson that I learned in my career you know, [that is] a total unnecessary extra pressure.”

Nico Rosberg defends Daniel Ricciardo past career decisions

Where Rosberg feels Ricciardo will not think he make a mistake though was in his decision to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, which considering the fact that he is now back in their junior team line-up, has caused question marks over the success of that call.

Ricciardo spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons with Renault, making the podium twice, that then followed by his disastrous spell at McLaren.

Discussing Ricciardo’s exit choice on Sky F1, Rosberg said: “I think [Ricciardo] just didn’t feel comfortable in the team anymore, because there was that rising star in Max Verstappen who was getting more and more support within the team, and he saw an opportunity to go to another team and be the star there and open a new chapter.

“I think that was his decision at the time, and I don’t think he would call it a mistake, looking back.”

Formula 1’s next point of call in F1 2023 is Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix, an event which Ricciardo won back in 2014, his first season with Red Bull.

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