Daniel Ricciardo admitted he was “50/50” on retiring after his disastrous spell at McLaren which ended last year.
The Australian was let go two thirds of the way into his McLaren deal having never really found his feet at the Woking outfit.
Not only did he struggle for performance but the McLaren car seemed to suck away his confidence and, for the first time, Ricciardo has admitted he considered giving up.
Daniel Ricciardo admits F1 future doubts
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
Having done well at Renault, Ricciardo’s move to McLaren in 2021 was supposed to be a smart step for him but besides from a win at Monza in his debut year, the Australian struggled to find his groove and was regularly beaten by team-mate Lando Norris.
Towards the end of his second year, it almost seemed as if he had lost confidence in his ability and he has not conceded that him retiring from F1 was a “50/50” decision.
“Sitting here a year ago, I was like ‘could this be my last race?'” he told media including PlanetF1.com in Abu Dhabi. “I don’t exaggerate when I say that. I really didn’t know. I honestly thought it was 50/50.
“So to have the year I’ve had and forget the hand [injury]. I just kind of feel a little bit reborn again. I feel re-energised and I’ve definitely got a second wind.”
Ricciardo also admitted his return to F1 came sooner than he expected with his initial plan being a year out but despite fulfilling a third driver role for Red Bull, he said the itch to get racing was getting stronger.
“If I didn’t race at all this year, if I had a whole 12 months off, I think that would have been no problem,” he said. “Because just the power of time off for me was just really, really beneficial and it gave me so much.
“Fortunately, I did find enough in those six months. If you’d have asked me in January ‘okay, you’re going to jump in at AlphaTauri at Budapest? How do you feel?’ I would have said ‘well, I’m probably not ready, I need more time.’
“But then by that point, it just made a lot more sense. Driving the cars, it feels fun again, and even qualifying 14th or something, it was still just having fun.
“I really wanted to think just having a bit of perspective with the time off. It’s not like my enjoyment in the sport should not be results based but it doesn’t just need to be winning every time.
“I think that’s where I came to the kind of place where I was totally happy and comfortable, at that time, driving for the 10th place team on the grid. Last year I said I don’t want to jump back into a car if it’s fighting at the back but it’s slowly started to make more and more sense.”