Daniel Ricciardo says he will only return to the Formula 1 grid if a competitive seat becomes available, appearing to rule out the possibility of linking up with a midfield or backmarker team.
Ricciardo departed McLaren at the end of the 2022 season following two difficult seasons with the Woking-based squad and did not secure a seat with another team for the 2023 campaign.
For 2023, he took up a role with former team Red Bull as a third driver, and was present in the Melbourne paddock earlier this month.
The 33-year-old has suggested that he is beginning to understand why his stint at McLaren failed to work out.
“Once you’re in the season, it’s relentless,” he told Fox Sports. “All you really have a chance to do is dissect the last race and [say] ‘okay, the set up was this and we’ll do that next time’. You don’t actually get a look at the big picture.
“Even like now I look back and even like the last two years at McLaren and I’m like, ‘okay, yeah, I understand why that didn’t work,’ ‘I would have done that better or done that differently or cut these things out or added that’.
“So I’m even in a position now, only a few months removed from last season, where if I get back on the grid next year I already have things that I want to do different and it’s quite cool. I wouldn’t have had that if I was still in the race car.”
Ricciardo stated during the weekend that his adrenaline was spiking being back in the paddock, hinting that he is keen to return.
But the eight-time grand prix winner says he will only be interested in jumping back behind the cockpit if a seat at a top team becomes available.
“One thing I want to get out of this year is I want to know what I want, but I also want to know what I don’t want,” he said. “And I think I can already answer that.
“I don’t want to go back to ground zero. I don’t want to just be on the grid [in order] to be on the grid and struggle in 18th place. So I don’t want to be on the grid at any cost.
“I know that it’s harder to just jump straight into a top team in terms of availability. But I know that’s where I want to be. I know I thrive in those situations when there is more on the line.
“I think at this point in my career to [have] that real hunger and motivation to race at the front, that’s all I really want. I know it probably makes it even a little harder to get to, but that’s where I’m looking.”