Daniel Ricciardo claims his temporary break from Formula 1 earlier this year provided him with “that second wind I was hoping for”.
Having been dropped by McLaren at the end of last year, Ricciardo elected to return to Red Bull in a reserve driver role for 2023.
However, Nyck de Vries’ struggles at AlphaTauri saw him dropped inside 10 races, opening the door for Ricciardo to come back to F1 with Red Bull’s second-string squad.
Although the Australian has been out of action since breaking his left hand in an FP3 crash at Zandvoort last month, AlphaTauri confirmed during last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix that Ricciardo will remain alongside Yuki Tsunoda next year.
Ricciardo admits this time last year he was unsure whether he would ever rediscover his appetite and motivation for racing.
“Very excited to be with a contract on the grid for next year,” Ricciardo said via Speedcafe.
“This time a year ago, I was honestly unsure about really just what I wanted. I wasn’t sure.
“Obviously, I’d never thought about… My whole life has been racing and I’ve put everything into it, so you’re not really sure, okay, when is that time going to come where ‘maybe is it time for a change?’
“I was definitely questioning ‘oh, am I going to have those feelings’ that, this is it.”
Ricciardo admits the time away from a full-time racing schedule “reignited” his desire to succeed in the second stage of his career.
“The first part of this year, I learned a lot about myself, and I think what I want and how I want to go about my career moving forward,” he explained.
“It really reignited me and gave me that second wind that I was hoping for – but wasn’t forcing.
“So now that I’ve got that and have something confirmed for next year, I’m a very, very hungry young man again.”
Ricciardo has openly conceded that his ambition is to return to the Red Bull cockpit that he vacated at the end of 2018.
While Max Verstappen is tied down through 2028, Sergio Perez only upholds a deal for next year and his troubling year has prompted speculation he could be replaced.
Despite pining for a place with the recently crowned Constructors’ champions, Ricciardo will also be under pressure to retain his current drive from Liam Lawson
The New Zealander has impressed in his four deputy outings in AlphaTauri’s AT04 car, scoring the team’s best result of the entire year with ninth place in Singapore.