Daniel Ricciardo believes being axed by McLaren at the end of last year was a “blessing in disguise” for the future of his Formula 1 career.
Despite securing McLaren’s only victory of the V6 turbo-hybrid engine era, Ricciardo was ousted by the Woking-based squad after two tumultuous seasons with the team.
But having returned to Red Bull in a reserve driver role, Ricciardo was granted an F1 reprieve with its sister side, AlphaTauri, in July following Nyck de Vries’ early exit.
Although his comeback has been curtailed by a broken hand injury suffered at Zandvoort last month, AlphaTauri announced last weekend that the Australian would remain for 2024 alongside Yuki Tsunoda.
As the eight-time F1 race winner continues to target a Red Bull seat in 2025, Ricciardo admits that McLaren’s decision to relieve him early from his contract was the right move.
“It’s never the way you want to end something,” Ricciardo told Goodwood regarding his McLaren stint. “Obviously, the results weren’t there.
“I’m a pretty easy-going guy, I got on with the team, and I didn’t fall out with anyone in the team, but it’s all performance-based and, let’s say, the business side of it didn’t work out.
“At the time, it was a bit of a harsh reality getting fired, but by the end of the season, when I got home for Christmas, I was like, ‘okay, it probably doesn’t help my reputation’, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore. It was a blessing in disguise.
“I needed to step away for a bit, to re-find myself, re-find my love for the sport. If it could have been done in a better way, fine, but at the same time, I don’t think me finishing out the contract this year would have done me any favours.
“I guess, in a way, I thank them for making that decision because we were in a bit of a hole, and I’m not sure we could have got out of it.”
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) McLaren MCL36. 13.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner commented that Ricciardo’s initial runs back in the team’s simulator proved that he had picked up “bad habits” in his time away.
Ricciardo has echoed that view, adding that his ill-fated McLaren spell made him question whether he had lost the ability that made him a multiple-time grand prix winner.
“I genuinely do feel that I lost some of my technique, some of my strengths,” he conceded.
“It felt like when things weren’t working I had to throw them away, and then I’d try some other stuff but that wouldn’t work, then my confidence would go down.
“I had thoughts that maybe I just couldn’t do it anymore. Period! A lot of stuff got lost along the way, and when I got back into the Red Bull sim, I realised I was not a very confident person.
“In a way that was a relief for me, to see that I wasn’t operating at the level I thought. It kind of justified some of my performances.
“It’s not making excuses because those performances weren’t good, but it was clear to me that it wasn’t me operating at 100%. Yes, I should have been able to figure it out. I couldn’t, but it was a kind of closure for me that I had got a bit lost but I could rediscover things and get back to being me.”
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