Daniel Ricciardo says he is ready to step away from Formula 1 for a while if the right opportunities do not arise for him following the announcement of his split with McLaren.
Returning to service for his British team ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix on Thursday less than 24 hours after news broke of their split at the end of this season, Ricciardo has made his revelation about taking a potential sabbatical.
But the Australian, whose future is uncertain, received welcome support from one of his most distinguished racing colleagues, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who predicted he would recover from his disappointment.
Asked if he might consider a move away from F1 if he doesn’t get the right offers to continue, Ricciardo told reporters at a difficult press conference in Spa: “If it made sense, yes. It’s the only race that interests me. At this point in my career, F1 is what I love and that’s where I see myself if I race.
“But let’s say the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make sense next year. If that means taking that time off 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 series of disappointing results, said he was “proud” of his efforts over two seasons at McLaren.
“It’s obviously not the most pleasant feeling, but I look back on it and I can hold my head high in terms of applying it 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 how we tried to make it happen and persevere, but some things, you might say, aren’t meant to happen.
“But I still love the sport and through it all – I guess, call it adversity – I haven’t lost my confidence. I still love it and I want to do it competitively. I don’t Never said I just wanted to be a pilot to catch up. If I’m here, I want to be here for a purpose.
“So I don’t know yet what that means for the future but, of course, if it’s the right opportunity, that’s where I want to be.”
Aston Martin’s Vettel, for his part, thinks Ricciardo is far from finished in F1. Telling reporters he was sad to see the Australian lose his seat, Ricciardo’s former Red Bull colleague said: “I had the pleasure of racing against him and the less pleasant side of being beaten by him years ago.
“I don’t know the specifics, but I guess McLaren failed to extract the potential he has. I’m sure at the end of the day the talent he has and the qualities he has will shine.”
But Ricciardo’s current team-mate Lando Norris has said he has no sympathy for his outgoing colleague, who now finds himself in the strange position of having to run nine more Grands Prix for the team before leaving.
Ricciardo has scored just 19 points, with a highest position of sixth, this season compared to Norris’ 76 in 13 races and third place at Imola. Norris said he was only focused on his own performance, rather than his teammate.
“It’s not my job to focus on someone else. I am not a driver-coach,” he said. “I’m here to give my best, and that’s about it. So it’s hard when people start to expect it’s my job to start doing these other things and to help and describe this and do that.
“It’s also the case that if I don’t perform well for a few years it could also be the end of my career and me driving in Formula 1.”