In the space of less than 90 seconds, everything changed for Daniel Ricciardo.
The Aussie Formula 1 driver’s career was up in the air like a plastic bag floating in the wind, but one test flipped the script.
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Ricciardo’s time behind the wheel came to an end following the 2022 season when his McLaren contract was cut short a year early.
The Woking-based team elected to move on from Ricciardo after they secured fellow Aussie, Oscar Piastri.
It was a move that left the 34-year-old Perth native weighing up his place on the grid after losing passion for the sport.
He ultimately elected to return to Red Bull as a reserve driver before he was given the chance to prove his worth on the track.
Following the British Grand Prix on July 10, 2023, he was back behind the wheel of a Red Bull for the first time since he departed the team in 2018.
While initially being listed as a tyre test, Ricciardo proved he has what it takes to compete and one lap was enough to force the team into action.
While he had some issues in his early laps, a set of new tyres made the difference and put him dangerously close to superstar driver Max Verstappen.
“It was good to feel that pressure again. The first run I actually spun twice, not in the gravel or anything, but I didn’t get in my head like, ‘Man what are you doing’. It makes sense I hadn’t driven in months,” Ricciardo said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Then I started to put in some good times. I did maybe eight or 10 laps, came back in and we put some new tyres on, like FP2 fuel in the car.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it. The first timed lap was on the money. Like on the money. You take the fuel out to take it to take it to qualy fuel, and it was a few hundredths off Max’s pole time.”
Verstappen’s qualifying time that secured pole position for the 2023 British Grand Prix was 1:26.720.
The Aussie ace had full faith in the car that helped him to secure seven of his eight career race wins, but even he was shocked by the time that flashed up.
“Coming into that lap, I was so excited. I was treating it like a qualifying lap. Mind you, 15 minutes earlier I felt like my head was going to come off in Turn 1, so I was like am I even going to be able to push on new tyres,” he said.
“I just had that feeling in the car and that confidence. There was elements of the car that felt so familiar … I kind of just knew what it could do and what it was capable of.
“I’m not going to say it was easy or effortless but I had a lot of confidence it could do what it could do.
“Crossing the line, when I looked at the time, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I was expecting to go that quick’.
“I knew the day had potential to be a really good day but I’d be lying if I said I was going to do that first lap with new tyres. That was kind of wild. It gave me a big smile.”
His bombshell return to the grid was officially confirmed following the test with Ricciardo taking the seat of Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri in 2023.
Unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan and after two races he was back on the sidelines after suffering a broken hand during a crash at the Dutch Grand Prix in late August.
Despite the untimely setback, Ricciardo remained optimistic about his career back in the Red Bull garage and says he still has the fire to be a Formula 1 world champion.
“I’m treating it like a second wind, a second chance to go all in,” he said.
“Do I still want to be world champion? Yes. Has it been a dream of mine since I was a kid?
“It’s not going to change me as a human, therefore it’s not going to change my life going forward. Yes, it would present some other opportunities or whatever if you are to achieve such a feat.
“I still want it and I still deep down believe I can do it, but it’s really not going to change the course of my life.”
Ricciardo, whether he meant to or not, added some fuel to the fire of the ongoing rumours surrounding the future of Red Bull driver Sergio Perez.
Perez found himself under the microscope in the latter half of the season after several lacklustre displays.
The Aussie has been linked with replacing the Mexican driver and partnering up with Verstappen once again, a dream that remains on the agenda for him.
“There’s so much about being back in the Red Bull family that has felt good and right,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot more potential in this team.
“I’m not even going to put a day or date or year on it. Jumping back in with the Red Bull family, doing the test in July, all these things. That’s honestly the dream.
“To end my career as a Red Bull driver would be perfect. Not that I’m looking at the end, but if I got back there I’d certainly make sure I finish there.”
The Formula 1 season returns in 2024 with the opening race taking place in Bahrain from February 29.