Daniel Ricciardo opens up on horror McLaren spell after abrupt exit

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, cycles Spa. Belgium, August 2022.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, stops as he cycles the Spa-Francorchamps track. Belgium, August 2022.

Daniel Ricciardo gave an insight into the major hit his confidence took during his nightmare McLaren spell, and how his return to the Red Bull simulator left him feeling “recharged”.

It was referred to by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown as F1’s “great mystery” why the union of that team and Ricciardo simply could not work out.

After two difficult and frustrating seasons in papaya for Ricciardo, even despite his victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, it was decided by the team that his contract would be terminated early at the end of the 2022 campaign.

It was an experience which Ricciardo does not simply blame on the team, explaining some potential shortcoming of his own, though it was one which shook his confidence, the eight-time race winner having decided to spend F1 2023 on the sidelines to take a break from it all.

“I’ll always take some responsibility or accountability,” said Ricciardo, as per Speedcafe.com.

“For many years, I truly believed I was the best, and I am the best in the world, so whatever the situation, I’ll be able to overcome it.

“And obviously with McLaren it was tough for me to do that.

“So yeah, I was aware that I’m not the perfect driver, I do have weaknesses, so I’ll always hold something on to myself.

“Having a bit of a chance to remove myself from it and now looking back on the last two years, I would have done things differently if I had that time again, or maybe ask more questions or been a little bit more demanding.

“But you also live and you learn, so I don’t look back with regret. That was a situation and I got through it.”

Ricciardo has not completely severed all F1 ties for his time away from the circus, as he struck a deal to return to Red Bull as a third driver, getting involved with promotional activities and attending selected rounds on the calendar, the first of those being the 2023 Australian GP.

And the Aussie admitted that upon his Red Bull reunion, there was a feeling of lower confidence, though he soon rediscovered that feeling of comfort when he jumped into the simulator, Ricciardo having driven for Red Bull between 2014-18.

“And now, getting back into Red Bull, I felt as well I was certainly a little bit… my confidence was probably not what it used to be as well,” Ricciardo continued.

“Even I was a little bit probably timid getting into the simulator, trying to downplay how it was going to go.

“But as the day went on, the more comfortable I felt, and the more it just felt like I was kind of back home in a car that I honestly felt comfortable with.

“So yeah, let’s say everything felt like it was pretty recharged after that first day.”

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Does Daniel Ricciardo have an option for F1 2024?

A large part of Ricciardo’s motives for this year off the grid was also to decide whether he wanted to pursue an F1 2024 return, something which he has said the “signs are pointing towards”.

But, he also declared that “I want to be back with a top team”, and right now it is difficult to see where such an opening could emerge.

Red Bull are Formula 1’s leading force, but unless Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have another bust-up which brings irreparable damage to that dynamic, then it is hard to foresee Red Bull axing Perez a year ahead of his contract finishing in order to bring Ricciardo back into the line-up.

Ferrari look set with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the same true with Aston Martin’s line-up of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, while Lewis Hamilton is likely to extend his stay with Mercedes as team-mate to George Russell.

At that point then, it is hard to see where Ricciardo pops up on the F1 2024 grid unless he is willing to compromise slightly on his criteria.