Reportedly, Daniel Ricciardo faces a brutal reality check when driving the AT04. He insists he is “not really afraid” of the car’s “limitations”.
With just two points this season in what is arguably the slowest car on the grid, AlphaTauri are bottom of the standings with the team making the surprise call to change their driver line-up before the summer break.
AlphaTauri has thrown the senseless Nyck de Vries overboard and put Ricciardo in his racing seat, and has rolled the dice in an attempt to at least overhaul Alfa Romeo to avoid the wooden spoon.
Daniel Ricciardo: I appreciate that the car will have its limitations
But for Ricciardo, the Honey Badger who was back on the grid last season and said he needed time to heal after two confusing campaigns with McLaren, it could be a difficult return to the team he last raced with in 2013.
The AlphaTauri AT04 has notable weaknesses, including rear stability, an issue the late-braking Ricciardo stumbled upon during his time at McLaren.
However, he insists going into his second stint with the Red Bull junior team well aware of the challenges ahead.
“I’m excited about it,” Ricciardo said in an interview on F1’s YouTube channel. “It is certainly challenging to jump in and try to hit the ground running.
“But I also feel like I’ve been through a lot in the last few years where I’m not really afraid of anything that comes my way.
“I appreciate that the car will have its limitations. It may not have as much grip as the Red Bull I drove a few days ago, but if it feels relatively balanced then that’s something I can work with.
“They expect results, performance, but I think it’s hard to define what that is until I get in the car. Is it a P8? Is it a P14? I don’t think there is any pressure until the summer holidays.
“But I don’t expect a slow start either. I want to get off to a flying start and try to put into practice what I have learned in this free time.”
Daniel Ricciardo: In the back of my mind I knew I might get a call
But while Ricciardo was determined six months ago that he wanted time to get his mojo back, when he received Helmut Marko’s call on Tuesday morning, the driver said he didn’t even have to think about it – his answer would always be yes .
“I didn’t really have to think about it,” said Ricciardo. “Being here again [Red Bull] family i feel like im just going through it all again and these are the calls i used to get.
“So there was no question that I would say yes. It was just the reality of ‘OK, it’s going to happen soon’.
“I have been part of the Red Bull family for so long. And I know these things can happen. So even though I definitely took some time off this year, in the back of my mind I knew I might get a call.
He revealed that the desire to get back on the grid was actually sparked when he attended the US Super Bowl and recalled the excitement of being in a “competitive environment”.
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“It was probably around the time I got to the Super Bowl when I was back in a competitive environment, I think I started to get some of those feelings back there,” he explained.
“And I was like, this feeling hasn’t gone away yet, that I would love to just stand under the lights and just compete right now. So that was definitely a moment when it all started to turn around.
“I wasn’t into the frothing in Melbourne, but it built up.
“Monaco was where I watched qualifying, and it was very exciting. And then I really started to think, ‘Ah, sitting here in a car would be really fun.’”
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