Daniel Ricciardo says a conversation with Fernando Alonso helped him reset for his return to Formula 1 after struggling at McLaren.
Alonso left McLaren at the end of the 2018 season and took a break from F1 but returned in 2021 with Alpine, completing two seasons with the team before joining Aston Martin this year. Ricciardo took a similar path after losing his McLaren drive last year, but was given the chance to return with AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix. After an encouraging first weekend during which he outqualified and outraced teammate Yuki Tsunoda, the Australian said Alonso’s advice helped his decision-making.
“I really feel, just having this half year off, even if it wasn’t the year I expected off, half a year still gave me a kind of reset,” Ricciardo said. “I feel energized again. Actually I remember having a conversation with Alonso, maybe two years ago now. We were just having a chat and he said the break for him was one of the best things he ever did.
“That got me thinking that if I ever feel I need it, don’t be so scared of it. Then seeing the year he’s had filled me with some confidence. Really glad to have been put in this position and come back feeling everything normal again. The grid, the start, the adrenaline, the emotion… I enjoyed it all.”
Ricciardo admitted that the biggest positive he took from his first race back was the progress he made with an uncompetitive AlphaTauri car in Budapest after two years of difficulties alongside Lando Norris at McLaren.
“That’s really the most encouraging thing,” he said. “Obviously for whatever reasons the McLaren was normally not speaking my language. It certainly speaks Lando’s language! He certainly knows how to get the most out of that thing.
“I felt like last year it kind of just was a stalemate and it was hard to get out of that. That’s why the time off and the fresh team, environment, have been the best thing for me. That’s all I can ask for – progress – and I think being open to learn again. That’s important as well.”
Having not raced in eight months, Ricciardo was pleased with his fitness levels but said he also made a point of soaking up the general feeling of being an F1 driver again.
“For sure there’s nerves, excitement – there’s a lot of these things – but sometimes we probably forget to remind ourselves to take it in and smile in the moment,” he said. “I was really just trying to enjoy it, and of course you still make sure you stay focused, but just enjoying it. The crowd was pretty cool. I heard a lot of cheers, so it was fun.”