Daniel Ricciardo believes a race seat in 2023 with a backmarker team could have spelled the permanent end to his F1 career.
The Australian is facing a year on the sidelines in 2023, having opted against chasing a drive with the likes of Williams or Haas after being dropped by McLaren.
While Ricciardo had a year left on his McLaren contract, the Woking-based outfit reached an agreement with Ricciardo to end the relationship early – McLaren replacing him with fellow Australian Oscar Piastri instead.
Ricciardo was thus free to pursue a seat elsewhere for 2023, but appeared to have no interest in chasing down any of the teams with free seats.
Ricciardo was eventually confirmed in a third driver role with Red Bull, returning to the team from whom he departed at the end of 2018 in order to join Renault.
He’s since explained his logic for not pursuing a race drive with Williams or Haas – both of whom had vacant cockpits at the time he became a free agent.
Daniel Ricciardo: Red Bull move has biggest upside
Asked for his thoughts on his Red Bull opportunity versus the challenge of racing for a backmarker team, Ricciardo admitted there was risks to either decision.
“I feel a bit of risk on both sides,” he said, as quoted by Crash.net.
“But, if I was to be back on the grid in ’24, this has the biggest upside in terms of I know that I’ll be a better version of myself.
“I think the risk is jumping into a seat next year and, as has been shown in my time at McLaren, nothing is guaranteed in terms of performance.”
Having won eight races during his career, with one of those wins coming with McLaren during a stellar weekend in Italy in 2021, Ricciardo said he had weighed up accepting a position further down the grid.
“If it was, for whatever reason, to be a relatively unsuccessful campaign,” he explained, “then I think I would personally probably be done with the sport.
“I think I would just be, yeah, done. So that risk seems way bigger than the risk of sitting out a year.”
Mark Webber: Is there an opportunity for Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull?
Mark Webber, who himself spent many years with Red Bull during his final years before retirement at the end of 2013, said Ricciardo’s move back to Milton Keynes shows his compatriot is doing his best to rekindle his spark for F1.
“I think that it shows you that he’s still trying to find his passion back for the sport,” Webber told Channel 4.
“Obviously, we’ve seen a tough time for him a little bit at Renault, more at McLaren. He had a phenomenal start to his career at Red Bull obviously.
“Can he have an opportunity through being a reserve driver there or doing a lot of the marketing part of the component which is obviously difficult for Max [Verstappen] and Sergio [Perez] to do when they’re on the road?
“So it’s a chance for him to stay in the sport with the best team. So that’s his option, and he thinks it’s attractive and he’s going for it.”