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Former F1 world champion Nico Rosberg admitted he was surprised that ‘awesome driver’ Daniel Ricciardo has made a return to Red Bull as their reserve driver. Australian driver Ricciardo left Red Bull in 2018 after five years at the manufacturer which included seven of his eight race wins.
After joining Renault for two winless seasons Ricciardo was signed by McLaren on a multi-year contract, which was due to end next season. Despite winning last year at the Italian GP the 33-year-old saw his contract terminated a year early amid a poor run of form this season.
After being left without an F1 seat for next season Rosberg, who won the championship in 2016, accepts the Australian had no other choice than return to Red Bull as a reserve driver next year after being short of other options. Haas was the only seat left open but Rosberg feared that the manufacturer wouldn’t have fulfiled Ricciardo’s ambitions.
Rosberg told Sky Sports’ ‘Any Driven Monday’ show: “Yes he had Haas potentially but of course that’s really not what he’s striving for. What he wants is to be out there, competitive, really fighting points and maybe podiums and things. It’s a difficult one with Daniel.”
Ricciardo has recorded eight wins during his F1 career and has finished third in the overall drivers’ championship on two occasions, but finished 11th in the standings during a disappointing final season at McLaren. Rosberg added: “Just two years ago he was the next world champion, the next big thing, huge hype, and now he’s exiting the sport like that.
“It’s so tough. Difficult to understand also why he was struggling to get that performance of the car, the performance that we’re used to seeing from him.” Ricciardo had been in talks with several teams, including Mercedes, about a reserve seat for next season but will return to Red Bull and revealed the news on Instagram on Wednesday.
He said: “For me personally, the ability to contribute to and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, whilst also giving me some time to recharge and refocus. I can’t wait to be with the team and support with simulator work, testing sessions and commercial activities. Let’s go!”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner added: “In his role as test and third driver, Daniel will give us the chance to diversify, assisting in the development of the car, aiding the team with his experience and knowledge of what it takes to succeed in F1.”
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