Ricciardo is set for his first full season at the Red Bull sister team after making his F1 comeback midway through 2023.

He has transformed from, seemingly, a declining driver lacking confidence to an experienced leader whose best days could still be in front of him.

“He put some engineering direction into the team with the experience he had and that really benefited the AlphaTauri team,” Red Bull team principal Horner told the Sky F1 podcast.

“It’s great to see Daniel back in F1. It’s something that I was very keen to bring him back into the fold over the winter. 

“When he came to us, you could see he was pretty much done with F1, he wasn’t enjoying it, but slowly that smile came back, that energy came back, and certainly the test in Silverstone for us was truly impressive. 

“The work behind the scenes on the simulator as well. He deserved the chance in the AlphaTauri. 

“He was unlucky to break his hand in Zandvoort but he drove very well this year.”

Ricciardo’s rise - coupled with the midseason struggles of Sergio Perez - means the race is on to secure the role as Max Verstappen’s teammate in 2025.

The job is Perez’s again next year but it is the final year of his contract, and Ricciardo’s assured and experienced status will provide Horner with another intriguing option.

He said about Ricciardo and his AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda: “They’re both Red Bull Racing drivers so they’re both there to be called upon should we need them.

“AlphaTauri is owned by the same shareholders as Red Bull Racing, but of course, the way they operate is independent to Red Bull Racing. 

“They take benefit of the parts that are allowed to be transferred like the gearbox or suspension. In the same way Williams and Aston Martin have done so with Mercedes or Haas with Ferrari. 

“They’re based in Italy but they have new management coming in in Peter Bayer as CEO and Laurent Mekies as team principal. 

“They’re competitive cars and they want to compete to move the team forward. 

“It has a new drive behind it. Essentially, they’re a customer of Red Bull Racing.” 

Horner said about AlphaTauri’s 2024 car: “It won’t be [a pink Mercedes]. They’re designing their own car, they have their own ideas.

“ While they use the same wind tunnel and certain components, not all aerodynamic surfaces as per the regs, they have to conceive and develop themselves.”

But he conceded it could look like the all-conquering RB19: “I am pretty sure a lot of the cars on the grid [will]. 

“If you look at the McLaren, the Aston, you see design influences from our car - I am sure this will be up and down the grid this year.”