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Daniel Ricciardo has given a brutally candid self-assessment of his struggles with McLaren in 2021, admitting that he was "sick of sucking all year" before a drought-breaking Italian Grand Prix victory.
Ricciardo declared that he was back in business after snapping a three-year drought with his win in a dramatic Italian GP at Monza.
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The victory was McLaren's first since 2012 when Jenson Button won the Brazilian Grand Prix, and it was Ricciardo's first since he was at Red Bull in 2018.
Ricciardo's euphoria was clear for all to see at Monza and he's since revealed how significant the victory was for his mental state of mind.
The Aussie's struggles since moving from Renault to McLaren have been well documented, with Ricciardo largely overshadowed by teammate Lando Norris so far in 2021.
Before Monza, Norris had managed top-five finishes in nine out of 10 races, compared to just one for Ricciardo over the same period.
Speaking to McLaren.com this week, Ricciardo admitted that his confidence and self-worth had taken a battering earlier in the season.
“Everyone knows it’s been a challenging year for me, probably the most challenging of my F1 career,” he explained.
“The results weren’t there, and it wasn’t that clear to me as to why.
“Those days were not fun. I don’t race to just be another driver and to be on TV. I race to win and achieve success, and to be the guy who everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy’. When you’re far away from that, it sucks and it’s not enjoyable.
“As a driver, your win ratio is smaller than probably any other sport. In most team sports, you probably win 50 per cent of the time, if not more, but name a driver who has a 50 per cent win ratio in F1? No one.
“You enter this sport knowing that you’re gonna have to put up with a lot of lows, but that’s what makes the highs even higher. And that’s what draws you back in.
“It keeps me up at night, but I think one of my strengths is being able to deal with disappointment and then moving on. And I’m not saying I bury it – not at all. I do address it and I try to learn from it. If Sunday’s terrible, for sure, Sunday night I’m very annoyed and I probably won’t sleep great.
“But by Monday I’m like, ‘All right, let’s attack this because what I felt 12 hours ago, I don’t want to feel that again’. I hate that feeling.”
Ricciardo has revealed the mid-season break in August gave him the chance to recharge the batteries. The Aussie insists he returned to the wheel as a driver with a renewed sense of purpose.
“I definitely took something from August, from the break, just getting away for a bit. I needed that. I needed to step away, to get a bit of distance and, through that, gain a little perspective,” Ricciardo said.
“Coming into the Italian Grand Prix, I was, and I know it’s easy to say it now but anyone who watched the weekend unfold will know, there was something about me that was kind of like a man possessed. And I don’t always show that in interviews but, behind closed doors, I was as hungry as I’ve been in a very long time. I realised early on that this weekend was an opportunity. I was sick of sucking all year.”
Daniel Ricciardo weighs in on Italian GP crash
Ricciardo this week jumped to the defence of his former teammate Max Verstappen, over the role the Red Bull driver played in the horror crash with Lewis Hamilton that wiped both title contenders out of the race.
Verstappen - who was handed a three-grid penalty for the incident - was slammed for walking away without checking whether Hamilton was OK.
However, Ricciardo has added weight to the theory that Verstappen had every right to believe his Mercedes rival was unhurt in the accident.
“I know Max, we were teammates for a few years,” Ricciardo told Pardon My Take podcast.
“That’s him, he is a competitor he’ll leave it on the track and that’s it. I guess he still maybe was carrying a bit of anger or a little bit of frustration from Silverstone. Maybe that’s why he just said, ‘Stuff this’, and walked away.
“I saw him go over his head but then stopped a bit more forward. I think where Lewis was trying to reverse and get out, maybe Max saw that and thought, ‘Ok Lewis is fine’, but I don’t know.
“If we go through an accident and we know the other driver was injured, I’m one hundred per cent sure we would all try to help, we wouldn’t just turn our backs.”
This angle of the Hamilton-Verstappen crash is absolutely nuts. That halo has saved Hamilton 😦
— Sioned Dafydd (@SionedDafydd) September 12, 2021
Ricciardo also thinks Verstappen's attempted pass of Hamilton was a legitimate move that was just badly executed.
“I don’t think what Max did was stupid,” Ricciardo added.
“He saw an opportunity and went for it, but it was obviously not the best.”
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