What To Expect From Daniel Ricciardo’s Sensational Formula 1 Return

The Honey Badger's back in the race.

What To Expect From Daniel Ricciardo’s Sensational Formula 1 Return

Image: Motorsport Images

Daniel Ricciardo will make his long-awaited return to the Formula 1 grid this weekend during the Hungarian Grand Prix, with fans eagerly waiting to see if he’s able to replicate some of the rumoured pace shown at Silverstone, and how far he’ll be able to push his new team.

I can’t remember the last time there was so much hype and interest surrounding an F1 driver’s return to the grid as there has been with Daniel Ricciardo and his AlphaTauri renaissance.

Such is the Australian driver’s popularity within this sport, that his reintroduction has been met with a monumental outpouring of support and renewed interest in an otherwise sealed championship race. Now, with Ricciardo back into the fray, the future of Red Bull is called back into question, and what happens this weekend could set the wheels in motion.

We’re past the halfway mark for this season, and Red Bull, seemingly dissatisfied with the underlying predictability of this year’s script, decided to perform a characteristic midseason shake-up that set the tongues wagging, replacing the underperforming Nyck de Vries in his debut season, and reinstalling one of the perennial players of this Formula 1 game.

“Six months ago I wasn’t in a place to jump at an opportunity like this,” Ricciardo revealed ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. “But that’s been the luxury of time, I’ve fallen in love with it again and I feel like I’m being myself again, back in an environment that is giving me a lot of nostalgia.”

Daniel Ricciardo’s return to AlphaTauri with a point to prove. Image: Getty

But for all the intrigue that Ricciardo’s race this weekend will bring, it’s fair to say he’s deserved this chance. Since joining Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri ahead of this season as a driver-in-waiting, Daniel Ricciardo has had to learn how to love again; dejected and disappointed from his difficult tenure driving the papaya of McLaren, Ricciardo’s return to Red Bull presented an opportunity to rediscover his pace and passion, and to come back under these circumstances writes another chapter for Danny Ric’s storied career. His Red Bull redemption is a Formula 1 fairytale.

During the British Grand Prix, Ricciardo proved he had done just that. Charging around the Silverstone circuit in Red Bull’s omnipotent RB19, the Australian was joyfully reminding F1 what it was missing out on, registering a best time coming in at 1:27.415 – only 0.7 seconds off Max Verstappen in first.

“His first push lap and seventh lap of the day would have put him on the front row of the grid.”

Christian Horner Red Bull Team Principal

And now Ricciardo’s back, his pace is there for all to see and the confidence that comes with it, with Ricciardo – and Horner – already looking to future changes to the Red Bull line-up in 2025.

“Obviously the dream is a Red Bull seat,” Ricciardo has conceded. “Of course, that was my wish but you need to be realistic, and if I want to get back into Red Bull it will be a process, and this is the best path for me at the moment.”

In testing, Ricciardo’s experience showed, with Red Bull’s Heritage Team Manager Tony Burrows revealing, “his feedback is spot on, he really knows what he’s doing behind the wheel.” With AlphaTauri’s fortunes on a downward trajectory, Ricciard’s reintroduction will bring specific expertise that are hard to come by with less-experienced drivers.

Christian Horner reveals Daniel Ricciardo’s pace would put him at the top of the grid. Image: Red Bull

In Hungary, all attention will be on the all-smiling Australian. It’s one thing to achieve front-row times in the fastest car on the grid in qualifying conditions, but Ricciardo hasn’t raced competitively since the end of last year. Stepping into the seat of the AlphaTauri will be a real test for Ricciardo and, given the above-average pace of Yuki Tsunoda, the pressure will be on Daniel to not only replicate his new teammate’s times but ideally surpass them.

“I need to show something, for sure, for next year and beyond, there’s no guarantees probably ever with this sport.”

Daniel Ricciardo

AlphaTauri, and Red Bull, will likely want to see a quick return on their investment; Ricciardo enters the grid at the back of the pack, sitting in last place in the Constructors Championship with only two points on the board. Whilst predictions ahead of qualifying are subject to change, Tsunoda has shown, on occasion, that this car can still fly – with Ricciardo behind the wheel once more we could easily see a top-half finish on his first race.

One thing’s for certain though, Ricciardo’s return puts the pressure back on Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez at the top, and with rookie driver Liam Lawson waiting in the wings for his chance at the big race, there could be a lot of movement come the end of the season. Whatever happens, we just hope that Ricciardo continues to do it with a smile.