Daniel Ricciardo is amazed at how much he changed in just six months, the Aussie hailing a transformation that reinvigorated his passion for racing.
After a disappointing 2022 season that saw him lose his McLaren seat, Ricciardo sought a fresh start, rejoining his former team Red Bull as their third driver.
Following a six-month hiatus, Ricciardo made his Formula 1 return with AlphaTauri, filling the void left by Nyck de Vries' underperformance.
However, his comeback was short-lived as a freak accident during practice at Zandvoort resulted in a fractured metacarpal and a forced withdrawal for five races.
He returned to the fray in Austin and scored his best result in Mexico City a week later when he qualified P4 and finished seventh.
Looking back on his eventful year, Ricciardo says his absence from the grid during the first half of the F1 season proved to be a rejuvenating experience, rekindling his passion and drive for racing.
But he also feels like he's been given a second chance and is determined to make the most of it. The 34-year-old doesn't want to look back on his career with regrets, so he's putting all his energy into his racing.
"Coming into now, I feel like I got a second chance, a second wind,” he said in Abu Dhabi recently.
“I want to make sure this is my one and only priority, I'm going to put all my energy into this.
“Because I just don't want to walk away one day and be like, ‘could have done more’ or, ‘that career slipped a little bit out of my fingers’. I'd hate to feel that.
"It gave me a new perspective, which is really cool. I’d say I’d recommend it to everyone! I mean, obviously everyone's on their own kind of path but I can't believe how much I've enjoyed the second half the season.
“It's pretty crazy what six months can do."
Ricciardo acknowledged that his lack of success at McLaren had negatively impacted his self-confidence, contributing to a challenging period.
During his two seasons with the Woking-based outfit, Ricciardo struggled to adapt to the car and consistently underperformed compared to his teammate. This led to mounting pressure and criticism, further affecting his confidence.
"When you're winning, it's kind of easy, but when you're not you go through some other challenging moments where you can become a little bit frustrated with it," the eight-time Grand Prix winner explained.
"Then obviously, on a competitive side, your confidence takes a hit. Then you're kind of asking yourself more questions.
"That also makes you question the love for it, then maybe you're not as hungry and the other sides of the sport, in terms of preparation."