After McLaren decided last summer to replace him for 2023 by rookie Oscar Piastri, Ricciardo’s chances of landing a solid seat for this season were dwindling when the Australian decided to take a sabbatical instead.
Ricciardo said he wanted to use 2023 to take a break and mentally reset after two punishing years with McLaren, in which he failed to get to grips with the car and was outshone by team-mate Lando Norris.
His third driver role at his old Red Bull team was designed to give him that chance, with his focus initially more on marketing and simulator work than driving.
The 33-year-old says his first grand prix appearance this year, when he attends his home race in Melbourne at the end of March, will probably give him a good indication on whether the fire is still burning to come back, or whether he is satisfied with life outside Formula 1.
“I’ll be watching the first race from likely television, so I think that’ll start to maybe warm up a few feelings,” Ricciardo said when Autosport asked him whether the first grand prix of the season will make him realise if he wants to return or not.
“Then I’ll be in Melbourne, that’ll be the first race I attend. And I think just being around the whole atmosphere and the noise, the sound, the smell, all of it. That’ll probably do what it does.
“And whether I’m so hooked and excited and wanting to get back or I’m just kind of happy being a fan for a bit longer, we’ll see. But I think Melbourne will probably tell me quite a lot.”
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, rides in an AC Cobra
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
When Autosport asked him if he felt it was important to claim any in-season testing opportunities to stay race fit, Ricciardo said he was “keen to have a crack” but that he wanted to phase into any testing commitments as he gets out of holiday mode.
“Let’s say I’m definitely keen to have a crack, just to stay kind of race fit if you will, and so the body doesn’t go into complete shock when it hits five Gs,” he responded.
“But if there was a test tomorrow, I’m still good. I still am happy to have a bit more time off. As the year progresses, then I’m sure I’ll put my hand up but yeah, not foaming at the mouth yet.
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“From a driving point of view the simulator will be the main thing. I’ll do some show runs throughout the year.
“It’s not confirmed but I know there are some tyre tests, so if I am to drive this year’s car, that’s probably more likely than FP1s.”