Daniel Ricciardo has admitted a Formula One campaign on 2023 would have pushed him to the brink of exhaustion, having explored every avenue to get to the bottom of his struggles with McLaren. Set to spend next season with Red Bull, Ricciardo says staying on the grid next year may have doomed his career entirely.
After agreeing to part ways with McLaren earlier this year, making way for Aussie F1 rookie Oscar Piastri, many expected Ricciardo to accept a seat elsewhere in order to revitalise his career. Opportunities to join either Haas or Williams existed, but Ricciardo surprised many in the F1 world by opting to sit out.
Ricciardo has been adamant he wants to return to a team capable of championship contention, despite fears from many that his two years at McLaren may have proved too damaging to his F1 stock.
However, a return to Red Bull is just what the doctor ordered for Ricciardo, who admitted two years of leaving no stone unturned to get his head around the tricky McLaren had left him mentally drained.
Going back to the team where he enjoyed the lion's share of his F1 success, Ricciardo believes will be key to helping rediscover the pace which made him an eight-time grand prix winner.
“As the second half of the season went on, I just needed to step away for a bit, rebuild myself, reset a bit, and also just find the intense love for it,” he told Speedcafe.
“Because, at this level, if you don’t have that, then I’m not doing justice for myself or anyone around me. I’m not saying I’ve lost it, but I’m in fear of losing it.”
Ricciardo had been rumoured to be returning to Red Bull for weeks. On Wednesday the team revealed some key details about the role he will fill as a reserve.
"Bringing a wealth of experience and character, Daniel will assist the team with testing and sim (race simulator) work, as well as commercial activity," Red Bull said in a statement.
Ricciardo made his debut with Red Bull during the 2014 season after spending two years at junior team Toro Rosso (Alpha Tauri since 2020). He spent five seasons with the team before making a switch to Renault in 2019, then subsequently to McLaren in 2021.
Daniel Ricciardo determined to bounce back after F1 struggles
Ricciardo expanded further upon his struggles over the past two years in the interview. He acknowledged that having to bounce back from disappointing weekend after disappointing weekend, with few highlights in the between, had become exhausting.
Pressure was piled onto Ricciardo heading into the 2022 season after he was comprehensively beaten by teammate Lando Norris in his first season with McLaren. F1's revamped aero rules had been a glimmer of hope for Ricciardo in getting on top of the car, but this season proved to be more of the same for the popular Australian driver.
“It just became more and more clear that I couldn’t be doing 24 races next year — it just wasn’t going to, I think, be the right thing for me,” he said.
“I think it would have just probably worn me out more than anything and it’s at a point where I just felt a little exhausted, where I just needed to slow my year down.
“And at this level of sport that is dangerous — you can’t be operating at 99 per cent. So I really felt I was in fear of not being at my best if I did another year.”
Ricciardo said he is unlikely to attend every Grand Prix in 2023 and is keen to take some time away from F1. Red Bull have back-to-back world champion Max Verstappen and Mexican driver Sergio Perez in their starting line-up for 2023.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.