Daniel Ricciardo says he’s already feeling the benefit of spending time out of competing in Formula 1 and has begun considering how to return.McLaren for 2023, but had his contract cut short amid a second disappointing season with the team last year, is now a reserve and test driver for Red Bull. This weekend he is attending his first grand prix back with the team that he left at the end of 2018.
Ricciardo said he wasn’t missing being part of the action. “It’s alright, honestly, I’m feeling I’m in a good place,” he told Fox Sports. “I’m happy to be here.
“But I’m also happy not competing this weekend, as much as I love it. I’m very [much] standing by my decision and I’m very happy to take some time off.”
Having spent four months out of the cockpit since his last race, Ricciardo said “a lot more stuff makes sense now” about the difficulties which led to his departure from McLaren last year.
“Once you’re in the season, it’s relentless. All you really have a chance to do is dissect the last race and [say] ‘okay, the set up was this and we’ll do that next time’. You don’t actually get a look at the big picture.
“Even like now I look back and even like the last two years at McLaren and I’m like, ‘okay, yeah, I understand why that didn’t work,’ ‘I would have done that better or done that differently or cut these things out or added that’.
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“So I’m even in a position now, only a few months removed from last season, where if I get back on the grid next year I already have things that I want to do different and it’s quite cool. I wouldn’t have had that if I was still in the race car.”
Any thoughts he had about not watching the new season were quickly dispelled, Ricciardo admitted.
“Coming into this year, I just wanted to take it as it comes and not really set too much of a plan or a schedule,” he said. “I want everything to come naturally and the hunger, the desire, the motivation, all of that stuff, I want it just to be organic, so to speak.
“There’s already some things, even the first couple of races, I was watching on the sofa. A couple of months ago I was like ‘I don’t even know if I’ll watch’. But Friday practice was on and I was [following] live timing.
“So I still am very invested in it and I love it. And I’m sure the more months that pass in this season, the more I’ll probably get a clear answer. I don’t feel done with it. I already feel a little bit revitalised.”
Red Bull brought Ricciardo into F1 in 2011 and he admitted he is enjoying his return to a familiar team. “I’m just enjoying I think being back at Red Bull as well and just being in that family with a lot of familiar faces.”
Ricciardo admitted he has begun thinking of a return and has already realised it needs to be with a competitive team. “One thing I want to get out of this year is I want to know what I want, but I also want to know what I don’t want,” he said. “And I think I can already answer that.
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“I don’t want to go back to ground zero. I don’t want to just be on the grid [in order] to be on the grid and struggle in 18th place. So I don’t want to be on the grid at any cost.”
He admitted setting that goal will make it more difficult to find a team for 2024. “I know that it’s harder to just jump straight into a top team in terms of availability. But I know that’s where I want to be. I know I thrive in those situations when there is more on the line.
“I think at this point in my career to [have] that real hunger and motivation to race at the front, that’s that’s all I really want. I know it probably makes it even a little harder to get to, but that’s where I’m looking.”
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