Daniel Ricciardo admits his weaknesses were ‘exposed’

Daniel Ricciardo will return to Red Bull in 2023 as a development driver, following a troubling two-year spell at McLaren.

The last two years have been an emotional rollercoaster for Daniel Ricciardo, as the fan favourite has struggled relentlessly to extract any real performance out of his McLaren, excluding one magnificent day at Monza.

Winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix was easily Ricciardo’s defining moment at the Woking-based team, as he showed the world that he is still capable of winning races, like he did so often when at Red Bull.

Ricciardo is, of course, an eight-time Grand Prix winner and is regarded by many as one of the fastest drivers on the grid, when given a car that suits him.

That is perhaps what separates Ricciardo from the very best in the sport, with the Aussie often nowhere to be seen when the car doesn’t suit his style.

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Unfortunately, his car hasn’t suited his style for the last two years, resulting in the termination of his three-year deal, a year before its conclusion.

The 33-year-old openly admits he has “weaknesses” but is adamant that when given the tools to perform, he’ll “f***ing win”.

“I’m certainly aware that I’m not perfect,” Ricciardo told The Race in October.

“I have weaknesses. And unfortunately, this car’s exposed that ultimately.

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“So, there is that where it’s humbling. I can still work on things and better myself.

“But then the confident part of me is like… but you give me a car to win and I’ll f***ing win!”

Ricciardo’s time with the British side appears to have had a theme of one-step forward two steps back, with the Aussie having rarely maintained a position throughout a weekend.

The Australian has at times started a weekend in the top 10 following a solid Friday but has then been eliminated in Q1 during qualifying.

Given his talent, many have been shocked to see Ricciardo eliminated in Q1 so often, with the Red Bull development driver admitting himself that he felt like he was on a “old hamster wheel”.

“Never-ending steps”, Ricciardo labelled his and McLaren’s working relationship.

“We would learn something on a weekend and we’ll take a step forward,” he says.

“But then there was another step that we had to make, or there was a new discovery. So it’s like we would progress from the previous weekend, but ‘oh, now there’s another hurdle’. So next weekend, we’ll get over that hurdle. And pretty much every weekend, it was like an unforeseen hurdle.

“I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got the car set up well, this driving style is starting to suit this car’. But then, again, it just felt like we were on the old hamster wheel.”

The Perth-born competitor is known best for his bubbly personality and beaming smile, something which was often seen even during times of struggle.

However, there were moments during 2022 where he became subdued, something which gave a clear signal that Ricciardo wasn’t happy with what he was doing.

Of course, he is set to take a year out of full-time racing in a bid to re-find his passion for Formula 1, with the Honey Badger admitting himself that his continuous struggles at McLaren took “something out of me” and took a “hit on people”.

“You just get into this cycle of: actually, we’re not really moving forward,” he said.

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“And I’m definitely an optimist. And certainly glass half full. And I’d kind of just keep picking myself up and be like, ‘No, we’ll figure it out, we’ll get it, it’s a race car, I’ll figure it out’ – but then the longer it drags on the more… I don’t want to be naive, you know? It takes something out of me.

“And then the more you scratch your head, I guess everyone’s confidence drops and you start running out of options.

“We’ve definitely tried to keep the morale up. But you can’t deny that I’m sure it’s taken a hit on people.”