Ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber has warned fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo that his one-year sabbatical will likely “feel longer” than a year for him, but that it could actually be something that works in the 33-year-old’s favour.
Ricciardo finds himself on the bench for 2023 after opting to take a year out of F1 to think about his options going forward, following the termination of his contract at McLaren.
The eight-time Grand Prix winner will still be seen in the paddock at times during the upcoming season, though, in his new role as Red Bull’s development driver.
He’ll also occupy the role of reserve driver for the Austrians when Super Formula driver Liam Lawson is unavailable, meaning he’ll replace either Max Verstappen or Sergio Pérez should they be unable to drive.
Returning to Red Bull has offered Ricciardo the chance to work in an environment he mostly thrived in from 2015-2018, before he opted to depart for Renault.
Webber, who is also a former Red Bull driver, believes Ricciardo will do excellently in his development role at the Austrians, and that he’ll have the time to “start making decisions” ahead of a possible return to racing in 2024.
“Obviously, in Daniel’s own words, he needs a break,” Webber told Speedcafe.
“He needs to reflect on finding the motivation and the energy [to get him] back to the sport.
“It’s good that he’s open to staying on the fringes to measure his motivation levels at his own discretion.
“I think this is a great opportunity for him to do that in an environment that he knows well, with Milton Keynes and Red Bull,” Webber said.
“He’ll be good for the brands, there’s no question about that. He’s insanely popular, we know that globally.
“A year out will … feel like longer for him, which could be good, because he might need that,” he suggested.
“Then [he can] start making decisions for how 2024 can look for him.”
Replacing Ricciardo at McLaren is, of course, fellow Australian driver Oscar Piastri, who is actually managed by Webber.
Big things are expected of the 2021 F2 World Champion, who is dubbed as a future F1 World Champion.
According to Webber, the 21-year-old is “pretty different” from Ricciardo, whilst Webber’s wife believes Piastri is “the most sophisticated Australian” to have ever raced “overseas”.
“He’s pretty different to Daniel. I think Oscar is pretty reserved,” Webber explained.
“Everyone’s got their own character. Sebastian as a world champion is very different to what he was at the end of his career. Charles, Max – they’ve all got their own little idiosyncrasies and style on how they go about it.
“Oscar is new to the sport,” he added.
“It doesn’t matter what driver you are, obviously it takes time for you to get used to the sport, the juggernaut, the travel, the media.
“When Lando arrived he was a rabbit in a headlight. Same for Daniel [in 2011] probably, a little bit at HRT and Toro Rosso for a time.
“Oscar is very reserved, incredibly professional, diligent, which we’re seeing in all the junior categories. And very economical with his words.
“As my wife said: ‘He’s the most sophisticated Australian that’s ever gone to race overseas!’,” he laughed.