Daniel Ricciardo has explained why he has U-turned on his desire to return to F1 in machinery capable of achieving race victories ahead of his second debut with AlphaTauri.
The Australian will complete the rest of the season for the Faenza-based outfit having been chosen to replace Nyck de Vries, who was ousted after a disappointing 10-race stint with the team.
Ricciardo left the F1 grid at the end of last season having parted ways with McLaren, with the eight-time race winner reluctant to take a drop down the grid.
That has now changed with his new team currently bottom of the Constructors’ standings with two points courtesy of Yuki Tsunoda.
Asked what had prompted his change of heart, Ricciardo told media, including RacingNews365: “A couple of things.
“I had enough time off to reset and kind of enjoy it again – I already felt that on the simulator this year.
“But that is why I also wanted to drive and really make sure it is still truly what I love doing most.
“I was up to speed really quick, it felt so good again and tasting the Red Bull car got me pretty excited.”
No point in focusing on Red Bull
“I knew, with everything that happened the last few years and getting back into the sport, taking some time off, I knew it would be very hard to go back into the top,” he added.
“That was my wish, but I think also, you need to be realistic at some point and say ‘if I want to get back to a Red Bull seat, it is going to take a process and a path’.
“This for me is the best path at the moment, and also six months ago I wasn’t in a place to jump at an opportunity like this, but that has been the luxury of time where I have fallen in love with it again and been myself again, back in an environment that gives me a lot of nostalgia.
“I spent a lot of my career here, a lot of my journey and junior days were here.
“Talking to Helmut again more recently, it kind of feels like it is where I belong, so when the opportunity came, I thought ‘absolutely, let’s try it’.”
The move positions Ricciardo for a potential step up to Red Bull if performances allow, though he is not getting ahead of himself.
“That’s the dream, so to speak, but there is no point in me thinking about that,” insisted Ricciardo.
“There’s a lot of work to do here. In terms of expectation, there is none. Everything I felt driving the car last week is how I want to go racing again.
“I want to be in the moment, enjoying it, not thinking too far ahead.
“I have been following and I know the car is going to have limitations, but I have got to do my best with what I have got.
“If it is something I feel I can work with, that’s all I need to feel good behind the wheel again and also use some of my experience to push the team.
“As far as this weekend goes, if you ask me where do I want to finish, I couldn’t say. I just want to know I have put everything into it and have done a lap I am proud of.”