‘I believe I can win again’ says Ricciardo as he opens up on rollercoaster F1 comeback
Daniel Ricciardo has opened up on how he’s approaching the second phase of his F1 career, believing that he’s still got what it takes to win in the sport after his momentous mid-season call-up to replace Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri.
The eight-time race winner enjoyed just two clean weekends after jumping into the AlphaTauri AT04 in Hungary – in place of the struggling De Vries, and following a successful test with Red Bull at Silverstone – before a crash in Free Practice 2 at the Dutch Grand Prix saw him side-lined for five races with a broken metacarpal.
However, a return in Austin was followed by a sensational performance in Mexico, Ricciardo qualifying fourth before driving to seventh in the race. The Australian would end the year tied with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu on six championship points, despite contesting just seven races to Zhou’s 22.
“A weekend like Mexico, that's a weekend where I felt everything I needed to feel again,” said Ricciardo, speaking at the Abu Dhabi season finale. “Obviously the team was very happy, everyone was happy, and those things help kind of everything moving forward.
“To put the car in a position where people don't expect to see that car, that's stuff that excites you, and the fourth [in Mexico] felt like a pole, because it felt like the AlphaTauri this year had no [right] to be on the second row of the grid. It just didn't ever look like that, so that sort of stuff gets me excited, definitely gets the butterflies going inside me. And if that can happen, it could obviously open up doors later on to fight for wins again.
“But as much as I want to win again, it's really because I believe I can. But I'm not going to dictate this second phase of my career just on that; dictate my happiness, dictate how I classify success in this second phase. To win again would be a bonus [but] I feel like I'm not carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and it's kind of nice.”
Asked, meanwhile, whether the hand injury – earned after crashing to avoid compatriot Oscar Piastri, who replaced him this season at McLaren – had taken the shine off his F1 comeback, Ricciardo replied: “I wish this never happened, because it was uncomfortable and painful and whatever. But now that it's obviously done, I still look back on this year as a positive, because sitting here [in Abu Dhabi] a year ago, I was like, 'Could this be my last race?'
“Genuinely, I don't exaggerate when I say that, I really didn't know; I honestly thought it was 50/50. So to kind of have the year I've had – forget the hand, I just kind of feel a little bit… reborn again is kind of the right word. I feel just re-energised, I've definitely got a second wind.
“Even if I speak of the hand, for this not to feel like a setback probably speaks volumes. I could see how maybe some people would see that lame accident with high consequences like 'yeah, maybe Daniel should just give it up, that's probably just a sign that he should just call it a day.' But I never thought that, I never felt like that. So that was maybe even more power to the decision of trying to kick some butt!”
Ricciardo ended the year with the honour of netting AlphaTauri’s best finish of 2023 with that seventh place in Mexico, with the Australian set to team up again with Yuki Tsunoda in 2024 – when AlphaTauri are set to be under the stewardship of Laurent Mekies, who replaces Franz Tost as Team Principal.