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What’s the return to Red Bull been like? Daniel Ricciardo (DR): Better than I thought it would be. I was definitely excited to come back and I think the chats we were having, I felt like everyone was excited for me to come back and it was kind of like open arms. But, yeah, I didn’t expect everyone that I used to work with to be as kind of high [about it] as I am. I think it’s cool. I’ve moved on, I’ve matured. I’ve lived and learned. And I’ve kind of grown through it all. And I feel everyone else has as well. There’s kind of no carry over of 2018 or whatever choice I made back then, it’s like [swipes hands clean]. I don’t even want to say we’re starting from fresh, because it just feels like we’re picking it up where we left off. And it’s been really good, so I’m happy. I’ve got some perks, in that I got more time back home over Christmas, got to spend some time with the family. Obviously you’re very used with this lifestyle to being selfish, and putting yourself first and not really giving your mates or family much time because you don’t have the opportunity. So being there a bit more for them the last kind of few months has been nice. How much simulator work have you been doing? And has it helped you regain confidence in yourself as you thought it might? DR: Yeah. Since Abu Dhabi [2022] I went home, and spent two months there. I then went to the USA, went to the Superbowl. And I basically just did no race driver things for probably close to three months. But, the first day back at Red Bull in the simulator was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a simulator, which is crazy, especially because at this point in my career that’s normally the boring work. But Simon [Rennie] my engineer at the time at Red Bull, he’s running the sim now. So it was like we were back in the routine of 2018 and mate, I loved it. It took me a few laps to get going and once I did it all felt familiar again. I would honestly say in a day my confidence went from being probably pretty low to back at the levels I remember being at. It was a good day. And I think just having that time off [also] just gave me a chance to, in a way, forget a little bit of the last two years. Just go in there with a fresh mind.

Ricciardo: I knew it’s a risk removing myself from an F1 seat

What’s the return to Red Bull been like? Daniel Ricciardo (DR): Better than I thought it would be. I was definitely excited to come back and I think the chats we were having, I felt like everyone was excited for me to come back and it was kind of like open arms. But, yeah, I didn’t expect everyone that I used to work with to be as kind of high [about it] as I am. I think it’s cool. I’ve moved on, I’ve matured. I’ve lived and learned. And I’ve kind of grown through it all. And I feel everyone else has as well. There’s kind of no carry over of 2018 or whatever choice I made back then, it’s like [swipes hands clean]. I don’t even want to say we’re starting from fresh, because it just feels like we’re picking it up where we left off. And it’s been really good, so I’m happy. I’ve got some perks, in that I got more time back home over Christmas, got to spend some time with the family. Obviously you’re very used with this lifestyle to being selfish, and putting yourself first and not really giving your mates or family much time because you don’t have the opportunity. So being there a bit more for them the last kind of few months has been nice. How much simulator work have you been doing? And has it helped you regain confidence in yourself as you thought it might? DR: Yeah. Since Abu Dhabi [2022] I went home, and spent two months there. I then went to the USA, went to the Superbowl. And I basically just did no race driver things for probably close to three months. But, the first day back at Red Bull in the simulator was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a simulator, which is crazy, especially because at this point in my career that’s normally the boring work. But Simon [Rennie] my engineer at the time at Red Bull, he’s running the sim now. So it was like we were back in the routine of 2018 and mate, I loved it. It took me a few laps to get going and once I did it all felt familiar again. I would honestly say in a day my confidence went from being probably pretty low to back at the levels I remember being at. It was a good day. And I think just having that time off [also] just gave me a chance to, in a way, forget a little bit of the last two years. Just go in there with a fresh mind.
Daniel Ricciardo admits it was a risk that he left Formula 1 but insists it is a risk worth taking as he looks to re-build his confidence after two tough years at McLaren.

The Australian opted to take on a reserve role at his former team Red Bull, and bide his time with a year on the sidelines, with the hope of finding a competitive seat in 2024.

In an interview with Top Gear, Ricciardo was asked about his chances to find a decent F1 seat, as the current landscape shows that there are not so many teams with attractive seats vacant, and whether that was a concern for the former McLaren driver.

“It doesn’t scare me,” Ricciardo said. “It’s always been like that, and I knew this was going to be a risk obviously removing myself from a seat. But I think it’s clear what I don’t want. I don’t want [just] any seat next year, as much as I think I want to be racing again.

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“I don’t want to just start from zero, and kind of build my [F1] career from scratch,” he insisted. “It’s not coming from an arrogant place. But I’m just past that. I don’t think that’s going to stimulate me or give me that second wind I’m looking for.

“So it makes the top seats even scarcer, but that’s where I know I will be able to perform at my best and thrive. That’s the sort of stuff I’m keeping my eyes on,” the winner of eight grands prix maintained.

Highlighting where and how to invest free time

Ricciardo’s reserve role at Red Bull means doing some simulator work, some show runs for the team in addition to substituting for the team’s regulars, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, should the need arise for that, meaning that he has plenty of time to kill as he will not be attending all 2023 grands prix this season.

On how he plans to spend his time; he said: “I’ve learnt in these first three months, the things I want to invest more energy in. And there’s other things, which are like, alright, I’ll remove these from my plate, and just kind of spend more quality time on fewer projects as opposed to just scattered efforts on many.

“The two big ones for me I’d say are the wine [DR3 X St Hugo Wines], and the clothing business [Enchanté by Daniel Ricciardo]. These are the things I’m genuinely really enjoying and invested in. So they’re my fun little hobbies.

“I say hobbies. They’re turning into something else. But they’re my fun projects on the side. And then it’s [also] nice just getting time to myself. Honestly I didn’t train for like two months, because I just needed to give myself time off.

“Now I’m getting back into it, and I want to be getting fit again. I don’t know. I’m just learning a lot through all of this,” Ricciardo concluded.