McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo says he never lost faith in his ability to rebound from a difficult start to his 2021 campaign with his new team.
Ricciardo returned to the top step of the podium at Monza on Sunday for the first time since 2018 while also delivering to McLaren its first win in F1 since 2012.
The Aussie's unexpected triumph in the Italian Grand Prix is a timely and "reassuring" boost for a driver that many had written off following a first half of the season in which he had been comprehensively outpaced, and outscored, by his younger teammate Lando Norris.
But as Ricciardo told his team on his cool-down lap at Monza, F1's Honey Badger never left, he merely "stepped aside for a while".
"It means everything," he said after his emphatic win at the Temple of Speed.
"I definitely try not to make, or dictate, my life happiness around the sport because it’s been three-and-a-half years since I won, so I’d be pretty miserable most of the time if I just based my happiness on winning races.
"It’s just wild… But deep down I never lost faith or the belief and I think I needed to step back and that’s where I think having some time off in August helped, and I truly think that helped this weekend, to get to this position."
Despite his unwavering self-belief, Ricciardo admitted that his eighth career win in F1 - his first outside of Red Bull – was "reassuring".
"It feels, I don’t know what the word is… it’s reassuring for me. I believe in myself obviously; I think everyone does to get to this point in the sport.
"I’ve certainly been challenged this year and you know the sport is just a tricky one. It’s not so black and white I guess, and sometimes you do struggle to find some answers.
"But I think you have to stay… true to the course and you can easily get lost as well.
"I think, deep down I would have moments of frustration or moments of dropping my head but I kind of made a point never to let that last."
Ricciardo acknowledged that during those moments of frustration, his infatuation with F1 was swept away, only to come back stronger.
"For moments you fall out of love with the sport but actually, the clarity you get afterwards makes you realise how much you do love it and how much you want it," he explained.
"I think that’s the most, the biggest thing this weekend, that I knew I’d have a chance to fight for a podium and yes, the want shone through and when it gets to that point and that level, I’ll back myself to the hilt."