Daniel Ricciardo has described the summer shutdown in Formula 1 as being a “blessing” for him, as he surged back to form at Monza.
The McLaren driver’s struggles throughout the first half of the season were evident, lagging well behind Lando Norris in a car which he feels hasn’t suited his strengths.
But since then, the Australian has been back on the pace relative to his team-mate and took a shock victory last time out at the Italian Grand Prix – and he feels the gap in racing did him the world of good to regain his confidence behind the wheel.
“It was a real blessing to have the forced break,” Ricciardo told BBC Sport. “The first half of the year, because I was struggling to get up to speed, I had no choice but to dive deeper into it, to try to learn and figure it out.
“I never really had a chance to remove myself from it and take a breath and even just mentally switch off. Part of the struggle was I was putting so much into it and not really getting much reward, so that was a bit of the frustration with the first half of the year.
“So, getting away, getting out of Europe, and getting those two weeks to forget about F1, it made me come into Belgium (and) even (in) Friday practice, I felt more calmness and confidence driving the car. It just felt better. I came in with a renewed energy and a little bit about me was back.”
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McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl agreed with Ricciardo’s assessment of the time away from action, with his driver admitting this season has been an emotional rollercoaster for him so far.
But now Ricciardo is an eight-time race winner in Formula 1, the McLaren boss is pleased that his hard work has paid off.
“We all don’t know what he did in those two weeks [during the summer break],” Seidl said to the official Formula 1 website. “Also don’t really want to know!… It’s just good to have a break, get some distance as well after a very intense period for him where he was putting in a lot of energy and the results didn’t come.
“Maybe he exactly needed that break to step away, think, reflect, and then come back and apply everything we’d worked through in the first half of the season.”