Ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, McLaren finally confirmed that Ricciardo would be dropped at the end of this season, one year before his contract was due to end.

Ricciardo’s dismissal comes as no surprise with Alpine junior Oscar Piastri waiting to get the green light to join the team after F1’s ‘silly season’ kicked into gear during the summer break.

He spent five years with Red Bull, securing seven victories, with a best finish of third in the drivers’ championship in 2014 and 2016.

When asked about Ricciardo’s situation, Horner admitted that he doesn’t “recognise him as the same driver as he was when he was with us”.

“It’s just very sad,” Horner said after FP2 at Spa. “I am not close to it. I have spoken to Daniel a little bit but I don’t recognise him as the same driver as he was when he was with us. He’s one of the best guys out there. 

“He’s definitely got that capability. I hope he finds a seat in F1, I hope he finds his mojo because if you think back to some of the races he drove for us, winning Monaco with 50% of the power [in 2018], he put in some amazing performances and you have to think when he was alongside Seb [Vettel in 2014], when he first came into the team, how he delivered, how close he was with Max as well. 

“Tough for him but I really hope he finds something for the future.”

Horner believes Ricciardo’s struggles at McLaren has resulted in his ‘confidence being zapped’ and his bubbly, smiley personality has been affected.

“We saw how close those guys were [in 2016-2018]. Max has evolved since Daniel left the team but Daniel, on his day, he was right there. He put in some amazing performances. We were sad to see him leave the team and his confidence has been zapped. 

“We’re used to seeing him on the podium doing shoeys, messing around with that smile but we don’t see any of that anymore. I hope that he finds an opportunity to further his career because I think F1 is better off having him in this championship than not.”

Ricciardo is currently without a drive for next year but has been linked with a return to Alpine, as well as Haas and Williams.