Ricciardo: McLaren firing was 'a blessing in disguise'


Daniel Ricciardo says he faced a "harsh reality" last year when McLaren opted to part ways with the Aussie a year early, but in hindsight he says his firing was "a blessing in disguise".

Ricciardo joined McLaren at the start of the 2021 season, convinced that the move would extract him from F1's midfield where he had lingered with Renault for two years.

But pitted against young gun Lando Norris, the Aussie struggled to find his footing at Woking and indeed never did, save in a moment of grace at the Italian Grand Prix when he claimed an unexpected and remarkable win.

However, his inability to get to grips with McLaren's designs left him buried in the thick of F1's midfield and well adrift from his team and his own expectations.

Over the summer of 2022, McLaren chose to cut its losses, relieving Ricciardo of his obligations at the end of the season, a full year before the end of his three-year deal with team papaya.

"It’s never the way you want to end something," Ricciardo told Goodwood.com writer Ian Parkes. "Obviously, the results weren’t there.

"I’m a pretty easy-going guy, I got on with the team, and I didn’t fall out with anyone in the team, but it’s all performance-based and, let’s say, the business side of it didn’t work out.

"At the time, it was a bit of a harsh reality getting fired, but by the end of the season, when I got home for Christmas, I was like, ‘okay, it probably doesn’t help my reputation’, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore. It was a blessing in disguise.

"I needed to step away for a bit, to re-find myself, re-find my love for the sport. If it could have been done in a better way, fine, but at the same time, I don’t think me finishing out the contract this year would have done me any favours.

"I guess, in a way, I thank them for making that decision because we were in a bit of a hole, and I’m not sure we could have got out of it."

Ricciardo's former Red Bull team picked up the 34-year-old and assigned him to a reserve and simulator role with the Milton Keynes- based outfit, which eventually led to a mid-season return to active duty with AlphaTauri where he replaced an ousted Nyck de Vries.

Interestingly, his early runs in the team's sim at Milton keynes revealed a driver that had changed – and not for the better – since 2018.

"I genuinely do feel that I lost some of my technique, some of my strengths," Ricciardo acknowledged.

"It felt like when things weren’t working I had to throw them away, and then I’d try some other stuff but that wouldn’t work, then my confidence would go down.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) AlphaTauri AT04. 30.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"I had thoughts that maybe I just couldn’t do it anymore. Period! A lot of stuff got lost along the way, and when I got back into the Red Bull sim, I realised I was not a very confident person.

"In a way that was a relief for me, to see that I wasn’t operating at the level I thought. It kind of justified some of my performances.

"It’s not making excuses because those performances weren’t good, but it was clear to me that it wasn’t me operating at 100%.

"Yes, I should have been able to figure it out. I couldn’t, but it was a kind of closure for me that I had got a bit lost but I could rediscover things and get back to being me."

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