Daniel Ricciardo is back 'in love' with F1 as he aims for Red Bull return

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Daniel Ricciardo said he has fallen in love with Formula One again as he prepares for his return to the grid with AlphaTauri at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

After being dropped by McLaren last year, Ricciardo joined Red Bull as a third driver at the start of this season, working on the team's simulator and conducting promotional work for the brand.

During a Pirelli tyre test in the championship-leading Red Bull last week, it was announced that Ricciardo would replace Nyck de Vries at Red Bull's junior team AlphaTauri from this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix until the remainder of the season.

The return to a team at the back of the grid contradicts comments that Ricciardo made at the end of last year about only wanting to drive for a competitive team, but he said a renewed love for F1 had changed his perspective.

"I had enough time off to reset and enjoy it again," he said. "I already felt that on the simulator so far this year, but that's why I also wanted to drive the car [at the test] and really make sure it's still truly what I love doing most.

"I was up to speed really quick and it felt really good again, and obviously tasting the Red Bull car got me pretty excited and everything that happened the last few years and getting back into the sport, taking some time off, I knew it was going to be very hard to go back in at the top.

"Of course, that was my wish but I think also you need to be realistic at some point and say, 'OK, if I want to get back to a Red Bull seat then it is going to take a bit of a process and a path'. This for me is the best path at the moment.

"Also, six months ago I wasn't in a place to jump at an opportunity like this, but that's been the luxury of time now. I've fallen in love with it again and I feel like I'm being myself again."

- Listen to Unlapped as the team preview the Hungarian Grand Prix

Ricciardo has made no secret of his desire to return to Red Bull, who he raced for between 2014 and 2018, but after struggling for performance during his time at McLaren, he says his priority is to enjoy racing again.

"That [racing for Red Bull] is, call it the dream, so to speak. But there is no point in me thinking about that. There is going to be a lot of work to do here. In terms of expectation, there is none. For me, everything I felt driving the car last week is what I want from racing, to be in the moment, enjoying it and not thinking too far ahead.

"I've been following and I know the [AlphaTauri] car is going to have some limitations, but I've got to do the best with what I've got. If it's something I think I can work with then that's all I need to feel good behind the wheel again and use some of my experience to push the team.

"As far as this weekend goes, if you ask me where I want to finish, I couldn't tell you. I just want to know I put everything in to it and got a lap I can be proud of."

Ricciardo's presence at AlphaTauri puts pressure on Red Bull's current driver Sergio Perez, who is under contract until the end of 2024 but struggling for performance compared to teammate Max Verstappen. Ricciardo said he had been offered no guarantees about his future from Red Bull's management, but recognised the need to perform in order to be considered for a return to the world championship-winning team.

"There's no real criteria at the moment [to be moved up to Red Bull]. But I need to show something, for sure, for next year and beyond, there's no guarantees -- probably ever, with this sport.

"Look, in a way, as I said, the summer break would have been more conventional, but I kind of like that I've got two races and then the break, so I've got some things to think about over the course of the break.

"I'm going to try and soak up as much of these two as I can, and then obviously come Zandvoort, have a little bit more of a guidance or awareness of where I expect to be for myself."