Daniel Ricciardo: ‘Unpleasant’ McLaren exit became a ‘blessing in disguise’

Henry Valantine
Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo VCARB launch.

Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo will continue as team-mates for the 2024 F1 season

Daniel Ricciardo said he felt his motivation was left “hurt and bruised” by his early McLaren exit, but it turned out to be a “blessing in disguise” to leave the team as he did.

Barring a superb victory at Monza in 2021, Ricciardo was largely out-performed by Lando Norris alongside him – to such a degree that he and the team mutually decided to end his contract two years into a three-year deal.

That left the Australian without a seat at the start of 2023, moving back to Red Bull as reserve driver before being parachuted into AlphaTauri midway through the year to replace Nyck de Vries.

Daniel Ricciardo: ‘Unpleasant’ McLaren situation was ‘blessing in disguise’

Despite suffering a broken hand after just two races back behind the wheel, Ricciardo had done enough to secure a full-time seat at Red Bull’s sister team for 2024, now rebranded to RB.

Having rediscovered his love of the sport in his time away from the track, the eight-time Grand Prix winner has explained what has changed for him since then and why it has brought back his motivation.

“As unpleasant as the situation at McLaren was, it was a blessing in disguise,” Ricciardo told the French edition of Motorsport.com.

“Let’s just say they ended my contract because I needed to take a step back to find myself, find my love again and find my hunger again.

“I think a lot of things were a bit hurt or bruised, like my willpower and motivation. So I needed to rediscover them and this period of rest allowed me to do that.”

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Ricciardo is looking to plant himself firmly in the shop window to partner Max Verstappen in the 2025 season at Red Bull, with his ‘old’ seat uncontracted beyond the end of the year.

While Red Bull have insisted Sergio Perez has first refusal on the drive if he keeps performing up to the task alongside the reigning World Champion this year, Ricciardo hopes to put himself in contention for the seat as well.

He’s looking at life in Formula 1 with a bit more perspective now, however, and wanting to keep life “fun” for himself despite the pressure.

“When you’re going through something, obviously it can change you a bit and give you a different perspective, or make you appreciate the good times more and understand how to deal with the bad,” he explained.

“When you’re in the doldrums, you realise what’s important to you and what’s not. I think you learn a lot about yourself from all this. And I think when I came out of it, I realised that I still really loved this sport, that I still believed in myself.

“I don’t want to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, because it should remain fun.

“And yes, I’m going to take things seriously, I’m going to try to be the best version of myself, but I don’t want it to consume every part of me to the point where I can’t enjoy other aspects of my life, because that’s not how it’s supposed to be – and that’s not the way I’ve always approached competition.”

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