Daniel Ricciardo says he is ready to leave Formula 1 for a while if the right opportunities do not emerge for him following the announcement of his break with McLaren.
Returning to service for his British squad ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix on Thursday less than 24 hours after the division’s announcement at the end of this season, Ricciardo has revealed he’s taking a possible gap year.
But the Australian, whose future is in the air, was welcomed by one of his most distinguished fellow drivers, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who predicted he would recover from his disappointment.
Asked if he might consider a spell away from F1 if he didn’t get the right offers to continue, Ricciardo told reporters while addressing a challenging press conference in Spa: “If it made sense, yes.
“It’s the only race that interests me. At this stage of my career, F1 is what I love and it’s where I see myself if I’m racing.
“But let’s say the stars don’t line up and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year. If it means taking that free time to reset and reevaluate, then if it’s the right thing to do, I’m willing to do it.
Ricciardo, who is ending his contract with McLaren at the end of the season a year early after a string of disappointing results, reiterated that he was “proud” of his efforts over two seasons at McLaren.
“Obviously it’s not the best feeling, but I look back on it and I can hold my head up in terms of applying myself and trying to make it work,” he said.
“Sometimes you just have to accept ‘I tried but it didn’t work.’ I’m proud of the way we’ve tried to make it happen and persist through it, but some things, one might say, aren’t meant to happen.
“But I still love sport and despite all this – I imagine, let’s call it adversity – I have not lost faith in myself.
“I still love him and I want to do it competitively. I never said I just want to be a driver to make the numbers. If I’m here, I want to be here for a purpose.
“So I still don’t know what it means for the future but obviously, if it’s the right opportunity, that’s where I want to be.”
Aston Martin’s Vettel, for example, believes Ricciardo is far from finished in F1.
Telling reporters he was sad to see the Australian lose his seat, Ricciardo’s former colleague at Red Bull said: “I had the pleasure of racing against him and the not-so-pleasant side of being beaten by him. Years ago.
“I don’t know the details, but I guess McLaren has failed to extract the potential it has.
“I’m sure, in the end, the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine.”
Ricciardo finds himself in the odd position of having to race nine more Grands Prix for McLaren before they part ways, but he promised he would do his best for a grand finale.
“I want to drive as competitively as possible,” he said.
“There is no slowdown. It’s just going out and having fun and trying to get another Monza moment (to emulate his victory in the Italian Grand Prix last year). “