[Ricciardo wasn’t sure if he’d race again during F1 sabbatical
Ricciardo and McLaren parted ways two years into a three-year contract after the Australian struggled to get comfortable in the Woking team’s Formula 1 cars, largely failing to match team-mate Lando Norris.
Ricciardo gradually lost himself in trying to dig his way out of his hole, having tried to force his driving style to such a degree that Red Bull “didn’t recognise” him when he returned to his former team’s simulator as a third driver.
His McLaren woes also affected Ricciardo mentally, having lost his enthusiasm for motorsport as he embarked on a sabbatical rather than trying to secure a seat further down the grid or in any other championship.
At Zandvoort, the 34-year-old explained he wasn’t sure if he would ever return to racing at all before rebuilding his confidence at Red Bull, which led to a mid-season AlphaTauri return.
“Six months ago I wasn’t sure if I would get back in the sport, or race again,” Ricciardo revealed.
“Even now, every weekend is a bonus. I’m here, I’m racing, I’m loving it. I’m going to enjoy it. There’s not really too much pressure or anything.
“I feel I have a point to prove but I’m not carrying too much weight with that.”
Ricciardo felt there were parallels with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who said he is trying to consciously enjoy racing in F1 more after his own comeback rather than just living race to race.
“That’s really what I’ve been trying to get back to,” Ricciardo said. “Get back to the early days and the core of why I got into this and the things that motivated me and why I wanted to be here in this position.
“Just strip everything back and get back to the pure enjoyment of the sport and the love of it.
“It probably got a bit clouded over the last year or two and I certainly found myself not in a place where I was enjoying it as much as I wanted.
“I spoke actually to Fernando, I remember it was on a flight. He touched on the time off and the benefits of that and I certainly feel that.”
Ricciardo managed to kick-start his F1 return with his old Faenza outfit by completing two races before the summer break, which he then got to digest during the summer break and has left him “in a good place”.
“I’m definitely taking it race by race but I want to be racing for a few more years now,” he added.
“I think six months ago that was not my answer. I feel like I do have that young energy again, that motivation and ultimately that happiness and that love to be back on the grid and to be racing.
“I’m in a good place. During the six months off, I did a lot of personal growth or reflecting and just got things right again.
“Obviously I’ve only had the two races but those two races, not only on-track but I think off-track and the way the weekend ran and how I felt on a personal level, was exactly what I wanted.
“I think that was probably what I’d been looking for a little while.”