Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes Daniel Ricciardo’s “remarkable” display in the Mexico Grand Prix “endorsed why we brought him back into AlphaTauri”.

Ricciardo returned from a broken hand injury at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix but endured a tough comeback appearance that was stymied by damage and race rust.

However, the Australian thrived from the outset at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, managing to split the Red Bulls to secure fourth on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Ricciardo has been persistently touted as a potential replacement for the struggling Perez, who retired from the grand prix after opening lap contact with Charles Leclerc.

But Horner has downplayed the significance of Ricciardo outqualifying Perez by pointing out the AlphaTauri driver was also only narrowly down on Max Verstappen’s time.

“Look at the delta to Max, though, as well,” Horner asserted. “So it was less than a tenth, pretty much, to Max. A remarkable performance by him [Ricciardo].”

Having been ousted from McLaren at the end of last year, Ricciardo returned to the Red Bull fray, which led to an AlphaTauri seat when Nyck de Vries was axed in July.

Horner reckons that Ricciardo, who finished seventh, looked like “the Daniel of old” across the Mexico weekend, fully vindicating the choice to provide him a second chance.

“It was great to see Daniel performing so well, and fully endorsed the reason why we brought him back into AlphaTauri just prior to the summer break,” Horner said.

“I thought he was outstanding this weekend, fighting a Mercedes in an AlphaTauri and had it not been for the red flag, he would have probably finished further up. A great performance from him, and certainly it looked like the Daniel of old this weekend.”

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) AlphaTauri. 29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day.

Ricciardo explained post-qualifying that he has felt confident in the AT04 car on corner entry since his first outing, an aspect that he couldn’t get his “head around” at McLaren.

Asked whether his most recent showing now proved his ill-fated McLaren stint was an aberration, Horner answered: “I think that’s a bit of a fallacy, to say.

“Sport is as much in the head as it is anywhere else, and I think he’s back to his old self. You can see he’s relaxed, he’s confident. And I thought this weekend, he came into the weekend fully motivated after a tricky Austin. Coming back from injury, I thought he did a great job this weekend.”

Following Yuki Tsunoda’s exploits in Austin last weekend, Ricciardo’s six-point haul enabled AlphaTauri to leapfrog Alfa Romeo and Haas into eighth in the standings.

AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer previously highlighted that the addition of Ricciardo’s experience to Red Bull’s second-string side had boosted the Italian squad’s prospects.

Horner has concurred with that view, adding: “I think he just brings a bunch of experience. They had two inexperienced drivers in the car, and I think he’s just put a bit of direction into their engineering, and I think they’re benefitting from that. He has that experience. That’s part of what he brings.”

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