Double F1 champion warns Daniel Ricciardo: ‘You shouldn’t come back’

Having taken a sabbatical himself, Mika Hakkinen has recalled from experience why fans might not see Daniel Ricciardo again.

Mika Hakkinen is a Formula 1 legend, winning two world titles in 1998 and 1999, however after coming so close to a third title in 2000, the Finn decided to take a year out of the sport at the end of 2001, eventually choosing to retire in July 2002.

Daniel Ricciardo looks set to also go down the sabbatical route, with the Australian heavily rumoured to be joining his former employers Red Bull as a reserve driver for the 2023 season, with the aim of returning to the grid with a top team in 2024.

Hakkinen has put a dark cloud over the 33-year-olds plan, claiming that once you step away from F1, it is very difficult to come back in and perform at a top level.

“I thought ‘OK if you feel like it I’d appreciate it, I will see what happens,” he recalled when talking about his decision to step away for the 2001 season.

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“But I did recognise after three or four months, when the season [2002] started and I was in Monaco or wherever I was, I was definitely feeling like ‘no way I wanted to go back there.’

“It requires so much energy, so much power from your body and physiologically, a lot of energy.

“I knew that it doesn’t matter if I have one year off, I cannot come back. I already knew that halfway through the season that I’m not coming back.”

Citing the physical and mental demands of the sport as the main reasons why the Finn knew he could never come back after his planned year away from F1, Hakkinen has suggested that if Ricciardo has a shred of doubt about returning then it would be the wrong idea to step back on to the grid in 2024.

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“If Daniel decides to have one year off, from experience I know once you leave this sport normally you shouldn’t come back.

“You can’t perform out there while thinking ‘should I retire or not’. [You have to] go flat-out every second,” he explained.

Ricciardo has assured fans that he will be back despite Hakkinen’s advice, telling the media that he could have fought for a 2023 seat at a lower team, but it is all part of his plan to step away and come back to fight for victories in 2024.