Recording his best drive of this season in what could be his third last F1 race ever, Nico Hulkenberg says Daniel Ricciardo needed his Mexican GP showing to give him a “little sense of achievement again”.
The 2022 Championship has not been the season Ricciardo had hoped for with the Aussie struggling to break into the top ten.
As the pressure mounted so too did rumours of his imminent exit, McLaren finally confirming that as F1 returned from the summer break.
But while the Honey Badger’s fans dreamt of the results finally flowing once the weight of expectation was lifted, that too didn’t happen.
Despondent after a wretched United States Grand Prix, Ricciardo said: “Honestly, it’s just 2022… when you think it can’t get worse, it does.
“That’s where, I don’t know, I don’t know how I’m continuing to continue because [to say] it’s painful is an understatement.”
He vowed to spring back and spring back he did, putting in his best drive of the championship in Mexico where he came from 12.5s behind Esteban Ocon to overtake several cars before taking P7 off him.
He then put 12 seconds between himself and the Alpine driver to negate the 10-second time penalty he’d received for hitting Yuki Tsunoda.
He was voted ‘Driver of the Day’, a much-welcomed plaudit for the beleaguered driver.
“I’m happy for him that after these tough years he’s had a little sense of achievement again,” F1-Insider quotes the former F1 driver Hulkenberg as having told ServusTV.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 31, 2022
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl also applauded Ricciardo’s performance in Mexico, acknowledging it would be a welcome boost for the driver.
“Daniel then really flew and showed great overtaking manoeuvres,” he said. “I’m even happier for him because he can now go into these last two races with self-confidence.”
With his McLaren career over, Ricciardo is now looking ahead to a year on the sidelines with the 33-year-old taking the time to recharge before potentially returning in 2024.
Turning down the chance of a Haas seat, he said: “It’s now just trying to set myself up for success I’d call it in the long term.”
Hulkenberg reckons it’s a welcome break for the eight-time grand prix winner.
“I think after the two turbulent years he’s glad that he’s going to be out for a year and can sort himself out,” he said.
“Knowing him and seeing his body language, I think he needs to get off this Formula 1 rat race.”
But while Ricciardo is leaving the rat race, there are suggestions Hulkenberg will be back in it next season.
The German is being tipped to replace Mick Schumacher at Haas next season after Aston Martin announced Stoffel Vandoorne as their reserve driver.