Days after a heavily rumoured split from McLaren was made public, Australian F1 ace Daniel Ricciardo hasn't ruled out spending a season on the sidelines if need be.
Despite showing steely determination to find a new home on the F1 grid next season after he reached an agreement with McLaren to buy him out of his final year with the team in 2023, the 33-year-old admitted a year out of the F1 fast lane wasn't off the table.
Ricciardo still has options in F1, with the likes of Alpine, Williams, Haas and Alfa Romeo all potentially in line to enter the driver market.
Despite this, Ricciardo knows as much as anyone that nothing is ever guaranteed in F1.
Though he told reporters he would take a year off from the sport 'if it made sense', Ricciardo remained adamant that he was only interested in racing in in F1.
"It's the only racing I'm interested in. At this stage of my career, F1 is what I love and it's where I see myself if I'm doing any racing," he said.
"But let's say the stars don't align and it doesn't make perfect sense next year. If it means taking that time off to reset and re-evaluate, then if that's the right thing to do, I'm willing to."
Ricciardo was understandably disappointed about how his highly anticipated switch to McLaren panned out, with teammate Lando Norris convincingly leading in points in 2021 and 2022.
However the West Australian was determined not to let himself down in the final nine races of the season, saying he could hold his head high regarding the effort he put in trying to narrow the gap between himself and Norris.
"It's obviously not like the nicest feeling but I look back on it and I can hold my head up high in terms of applying myself and trying to make make it work," he said.
"Sometimes you just have to accept 'I tried but it didn't work out'. I'm proud of the way we tried to make it happen and persist through it but some things, you might say, are not meant to be.
"But I still love the sport and through all this - I guess, call it adversity - I haven't lost confidence in myself.
"I still love it and want to do it competitively. I've never said I just want to be a driver to make up the numbers. If I'm here, I want to be here for a purpose.
"So I don't know what that means yet for the future but, of course, if it's the right opportunity, that's where I want to be."
F1 colleagues back Daniel Ricciardo for 2023 revival
Former F1 teammate and retiring four-time champion Sebastian Vettel said he believed Ricciardo's time was not yet over.
Vettel has experienced first hand exactly how quick Ricciardo can be, having been outperformed by the Australian when the pair were teammates at Red Bull in 2014.
Ricciardo stepped up to Red Bull in 2014, finishing third in the drivers championship and winning three races while Vettel managed just three podiums for the season.
"I had the pleasure to race against him and the not so pleasurable side of getting beaten by him years ago.
"I don't know the details, but I guess McLaren failed to extract the potential that he has.
"I'm sure that, ultimately, the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine through."
Ricciardo is in the strange position of having to race nine more grand prix for McLaren before they part ways, but he promised he'd try his best for a grand finale.
"I want to drive as competitively as possible," he said.
"There's no slacking off. It's just go out and have fun and try and get another Monza moment (to emulate his Italian grand prix win there last year)."
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