There were times last season when Daniel Ricciardo thought that’s it, he’s done with Formula 1, but insists this season is actually going better than last year.
Teaming up with Lando Norris at McLaren last season, it was thought that Ricciardo would teach his young team-mate a lesson or two. It was the other way around.
All too often pundits used the word ‘outshone’ when it came to describing Ricciardo’s losses to Norris, although he did pull it back in the second half of the season to score 115 points to his team-mate’s 160.
He also clinched the team’s only win of the championship, P1 at the Italian Grand Prix as he led home his team-mate for a 1-2 result.
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Overall, though, it was not a good season for the Aussie who admits there were times he doubted whether he had what was needed to fight at the sharp end of the grid.
Speaking to Maxim magazine, he was asked about last season and replied: “It was the most challenging year of my career.
“I think because I’m a bit of a veteran now you don’t expect to struggle, to have one of your toughest years when you’re well into the depth of your career. So maybe that was a bit of a subconscious mistake on my part to always just expect too much of myself.
“So when I was struggling I was quite taken aback by it and certainly confused, frustrated. I was a bit down and lost. But then to overcome a lot of that and get the win in Monza, it made everything okay.
“I learned a lot about myself through the lows, and some days for sure I was like, “I’m done with this. I hate racing.”
“But then a day would pass and I would be training as hard as I ever have in the gym because it lit the fire again. So just trying to learn really how much it meant to me and just to keep persisting. Nothing earned is easy.
“And it’s also difficult to accept because for most of my career I was used to being one of the best guys on the grid or the top guy on the teams.
“So to not be that for a good month or something, it definitely makes you question, “Man, what’s going on? Do I still have it?” You get some of those doubts creep in a little bit.”
Staying with McLaren for a second season, 2022 and its all-new cars are not playing out in Ricciardo’s favour as he’s managed just one top ten result in six races, Norris has four.
So much so that McLaren CEO Zak Brown admits that their partnership has “generally not kind of met his or our expectations”.
Ricciardo, though, reckons this season is actually going better than last year.
“It’s funny,” he said, “I’d say this season’s actually been better. On paper it still doesn’t look better, but I’m definitely gelling more with it.
“I’m still trying to get completely there with it. I think some tracks will probably be able to get on top, but it’s not something every session I get out the car and I’m like, “Yeah, this is sweet.” There’s still a little bit of a working out process.”
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