Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has discussed how Daniel Ricciardo picked up “every bad habit imaginable” due to an F1 race engineer during his time away from Red Bull.
Ricciardo was viewed by many as a potential world champion while he was still at Red Bull, but then his dortunes began to dwindle after deciding to end his time at the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
Horner has now attributed this loss of form due to his close association with an engineer during his time at Renault and McLaren.
The Honey Badger, who was contracted by Red Bull as a reserve driver at the beginning of the season, impressed the hierarchy enough to slot into AlphaTauri on the back of disappointing performances by F1 rookie Nyck de Vries.
The Australian driver has even been rumoured to take the position of Red Bull driver Sergio Perez on the back of his differences with teammate Max Verstappen and overall inconsistency this season.
Horner has discussed how it took a great deal of difficulty to get Ricciardo ready to race again after his bad influence in the past.
“I didn’t really recognise the Daniel, over the last couple of years, that we’d sort of grown so used to, that had grown up with us,” Horner said.
“He came in and drove the simulator the day after Abu Dhabi, or a couple of days after Abu Dhabi. It was a complete disaster and he’d picked up every bad habit imaginable when he was working with this previous engineer.
“Gradually we unpicked it. With each session he just got better and better. You could see his confidence growing to the point that he was absolutely on the pace with the race drivers.”
Although Horner did discuss some bad habits that Ricciardo picked up, he still believes in the Honey Badger.
“What impressed me the most when I went up to have a look at the test was – bearing in mind he hasn’t driven this car, hadn’t been in a car for seven months – within his third or fourth lap he was down to a time that was within a second of what our drivers were achieving,” Horner said.
“Then in his first proper run, as it were, on tyres that were comparable, you could see his confidence was growing and growing and that first lap on probably what was his seventh lap of the day would have put him on the front row of the grid. So it was hugely impressive.
“I was just pleased to see that he was still able to operate at that level. You could see, I mentioned to him ‘that would have put you on the front row of the grid’ and you could see almost the relief in his eyes.
“[It was] almost like the pressure released off his shoulders that he could still do it, that he wasn’t going mad and the old Daniel was still there.
“And then his long runs were very impressive and the work that he did for Pirelli was absolutely on the money.”
Horner discussed how talks with Ricciardo to replace Nyck had already taken place before his tyre test in Silverstone.
“Obviously before the test there was some element of discussion with Daniel to say, look, if this goes well, would you be up for driving an AlphaTauri because things aren’t quite going as we’d hoped with Nyck,” he said.
“Would you be up for that challenge? And he [said] ‘yeah, absolutely’. He was prepared, if you like, to take a step backwards to try and take two steps forward.”