Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes Daniel Ricciardo is “doing the right thing” by taking a year away from Formula 1, but there is no “easy answer” about him returning to the grid in future.
Ricciardo is currently on the Formula 1 sidelines as Red Bull’s reserve driver after seeing his contract ended by McLaren a year early, with young compatriot Oscar Piastri driving alongside Lando Norris at the team this season after the eight-time race winner endured two difficult years overall with the Woking-based squad.
The Australian has spoken about his hopes to use his year out of the cockpit to spend time doing what he has been unable to do while a full-time part of the Formula 1 circus, while working hard to put himself in a prime position to be selected for a competitive seat in the 2024 season.
‘Competitive’ is the operative word for Ricciardo, too, as he is keen for any F1 return to not simply be to make up the numbers on the grid.
Steiner revealed recently that he had shared a flight with the Australian on the way over to Melbourne for his home race, though a 2024 seat was not on their minds as they spoke.
The Haas team boss thinks Ricciardo is in charge of his own destiny to a certain degree for next season, and it is up to him to decide first and foremost whether he would like a place on the grid in 2024 before he puts the feelers out to try and gain a seat.
“I think he’s doing the right thing to take a year out,” Steiner told Mail Sport.
“I mean, he’s still a reserve driver for Red Bull, he can be around cars, he can be in the circus. You know, because out of sight, out of mind. So he’s still there.
“Then he needs to make up his own mind if he wants to continue or if he wants to call it a day and do something different. He is still pretty young, you know. A lot of people like him because of his personality… but it’s for him [to decide].
“It’s good to have a year in my opinion just to reflect on it because, for sure, the last year wasn’t easy for him because he is a good race car driver and he was beaten by his team-mate.
“And for sure, he’s not happy about that. He’s still not happy. But does he want to come back and prove that he’s what he was before? A winner. Or is he given the opportunity? Because it’s not only his decision. It is the decision of one of the teams which take him on as well.
“So it’s not an easy answer there, but I think the first thing he needs to feel out for himself is if he wants to come back or not.”
Ricciardo has made it clear on a number of occasions himself that he hopes to be back on the grid next year, but he did have a tough time of things as Lando Norris’ team-mate at McLaren, with his younger colleague often having the upper hand alongside each other.
But with some time to reset, Steiner believes one step back in taking a year off could potentially lead to a bigger leap if he did choose to return – and he was able to land a drive.
“It’s difficult to be beaten continuously by your team-mate,” he elaborated, “and a big thing was made out of it as well, you know, press wise, and he had no answer at the time.
“It’s a downward spiral once you fall into. Therefore, taking a step back, maybe could make him go forward.”