Daniel Ricciardo has joined Red Bull as the third driver for the 2023 season.
He will assist Red Bull in testing and simulations as well as commercial activities, the team said.
Ricciardo said he was “really excited” to return to the team for which he won seven Grands Prix between 2014 and 2018, before leaving for Renault.
Team principal Christian Horner said: “It’s great to bring Daniel back to the Red Bull family. He has enormous talent and such a brilliant character.
“I know the whole family is thrilled to welcome him home.
“In his role as third driver, Daniel will give us a chance to diversify, helping with air development, helping the team with his experience and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in F1.”
A smiling Ricciardo said the welcome given to him by Horner, Red Bull’s motorsport adviser and the whole team was “something I sincerely appreciate”.
“The ability to contribute and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, while giving me time to recharge and refocus,” he added.
How did Ricciardo end up at Red Bull?
Ricciardo spent five seasons with Red Bull and left at the end of 2018 because he felt the team was focusing more and more on Max Verstappen, to his detriment.
He moved to Renault for 2019, on a lucrative deal worth more than $50m over two years, but decided before the delayed start of the 2020 season that he would leave for McLaren in 2021.
Ricciardo claimed Renault’s first podium for nine years at the Eifel Grand Prix towards the end of the 2020 season, and claimed a second at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix two races later.
After joining McLaren, Ricciardo won the 2021 Italian Grand Prix – securing the team’s first win for nine years and leading team-mate Lando Norris to a brace – but for most of the year he struggled to match the Briton.
When these problems persisted in 2022, McLaren decided to replace him and negotiated the end of his contract – which was to run until the end of 2023 – this summer. They signed Australian Oscar Piastri as Ricciardo’s replacement.
Ricciardo admitted he doesn’t fully understand why he struggled for performance at McLaren, and the team feels the same. He has decided to take a year off in 2023 rather than sign for a team further down the grid, but said he was determined to return to F1 in 2024.
Ricciardo was a junior Red Bull driver and the company paid for his debut with the HRT team in the second half of 2011, before placing him in their Toro Rosso second team for 2012-13.
He then moved to Red Bull for 2014, following the retirement of Mark Webber, and beat four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in his first season with the team, winning three races to none for the German.
Could Ricciardo race again for Red Bull?
The relationship between Red Bull’s two-time world champion Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez was strained during the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.
Verstappen refused an order from the team to pass Perez for sixth place at the end of the race to help the Mexican’s bid for second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Verstappen said he had his “reasons” for refusing, and they had to do with “something that happened in the past”. Perez said it ‘shows what kind of person’ the Dutchman is.
It has since emerged that the tension was due to Verstappen’s belief that Perez deliberately crashed late in qualifying for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, securing his third place on the grid ahead of Verstappen. Perez won the race.
Perez described this version of events as “just speculation and people creating rumours,” adding, “That rumor is false.” He also said he regretted the criticisms he had made of Verstappen.
Horner insisted the two pilots talked and cleared the air.
F1 figures have pointed out that having Ricciardo in the squad is a practical way to keep Perez in line, as he knows Red Bull already have a potential replacement should relations with Verstappen deteriorate again.
At last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when it first emerged that Ricciardo would take on the role, Horner was asked if Ricciardo could “become a longer-term option as a driver of race”.
He replied: “No. Daniel’s contract is very specific for a specific reason. We have a contract with Checo for the next two years.”
Horner said Ricciardo is joining to help relieve racing drivers in areas such as marketing – such as show car racing and events – and will also be used to advance development of the car on the simulator. .