Daniel Ricciardo remains a popular figure in the F1 paddock, known for his enthusiasm and infectious smile. These qualities remain as the Australian continues into his 11th full-time season in the sport, but there is also a sense of pressure attached to him at the moment.
Speculation continues to mount over his place at McLaren, in the wake of what has been a disappointing season so far. This follows on from a tough 2021 campaign, during which the main highlight was his victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
During the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, Ricciardo spoke exclusively to RacingNews365.com about his current situation, and his hopes for his future in Formula 1.
How much longer will Ricciardo race in F1?
When asked about what his "shelf life" in F1 is, Ricciardo jokingly responded: "The more people ask me [about retirement], I'm like, 'F*** that, I want to stay longer!'
"What's my shelf life? I still think there's a good handful of years left in me competitively. But, if I said five more years, and in my fifth year I start winning a bunch of races and I'm fighting for a World Championship, I'm definitely not going to retire at the end of that fifth year.
"So it's relative as well to competitiveness [and] desire."
However, Ricciardo admits that it is difficult to predict what will happen in the years ahead.
"I think I've still got the desire in me for a good handful of years, results aside," he explained.
"I don't need to be winning every race to be like, 'Okay, I'm gonna do another year'. But then, at the end of that, if I am winning races, then I'd probably stay longer, but I don't know.
"Even if I said five years' time, it's hard to know what's going to happen in five years' time. In terms of, I look back at five years ago, and I felt things were very different."
Is Ricciardo's future in his hands?
Whilst Ricciardo sees himself in the sport for the long-term, this will of course depend on a team wanting him in return.
When quizzed about how much of his future is in his own hands, the 32-year-old said: " I want to keep carrying on for a handful of years, but there's no guarantee.
"Yes, I've done F1 enough now that people know that I'm capable driver, etc. But people also forget, there's no guarantee that in two years' time, everyone's going to be like, 'We want to sign you'.
"There's not 10 contracts under your door, so it's in my hands as well, and not only my desire, but of course my competitiveness."
RacingNews365.com pointed out one of Ricciardo's tattoos, which features the word 'free', and asked if he would consider racing for free.
"It's funny you say that, and, look, the answer's probably no!" the Australian laughed, before continuing in a more serious tone.
"But I feel like your willingness should be that. Up until Formula 1, not only were we not driving for free, we were paying for racing, so it was costing us money!
"Your love for the sport should make you want to drive for free. I think at least that your intention or your desire should be: 'I would do this s*** for free because I love it so much.'"
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"Unfinished business" for Ricciardo
Ricciardo clearly sees himself in Formula 1 for the next few years, but does he harbour ambitions to race with another team in this time?
The eight-time race winner has moved around the grid in recent years, having switched from Red Bull to Renault at the end of the 2018 campaign, before joining McLaren at the start of 2021.
However, it seems that his focus is solely on the papaya outfit for the forseeable future.
"There's no team or teams on my wish list," he said.
"I'm aware I've moved around a bit the last few years, so stability within a team sounds most desirable for me. Also, McLaren's got things coming [such as the] wind tunnel [and] new simulator, which I know will benefit the team.
"I want to use the word 'tremendously', but I don't know the scale, but for sure it will benefit the team to some extent. I certainly want to be a part of that as well, so I'm not having any thoughts of being anywhere else."
Ricciardo has already achieved a victory with the Woking-based squad, but the World Championship remains his goal.
"The biggest thing now is a world title, for sure," the driver added.
"One win is awesome, but it's not enough. So there's unfinished business, in terms of, I want to get more, but there's unfinished business in the sport still [too].
"I think, going back to the retirement talk, whilst I still believe I can have what it takes to be a World Champion, then I'm going to stay in the sport, because I'm not content with eight wins. I'm proud, but I'm not content."
Could Ricciardo have added more trophies to his cabinet?
Barring his victory at Monza in 2021, it has been quite some time since Ricciardo was picking up wins in F1. His tally still remains at eight, but should it have been more, and if so, where did it go wrong?
"I think it's... not being in a Mercedes from 2014 to 2020, probably!" the Australian quipped.
"It's one of those ones where, maybe I had the talent to win [more], 20 races or whatever, it's obviously an opinion. But there's so much more with the sport.
"It's probably the least black and white sport that exists, so it's as simple as that. It's timing, it's nailing everything on the day, it's having strategy, having fortune or whatever."
Ricciardo is not overly concerned by statistics in the sport, though.
"I'm not one for stats," he admitted.
"So I don't look at eight [wins] and [think], 'Man, that should say 15 or something'. If it said a world title, then for sure I would look at that stat.
"I'm not into the numbers so much. Of course, the more the merrier, but I don't look back and [think], 'S***, that should say 15'. Because it is what it is.
"Also, the gratitude in me is grateful as well that I have had some, because some drivers haven't even got a podium, like [Nico] Hulkenberg is one.
"You can always play that game of, 'Man, look at [Lewis] Hamilton'. But you could also look back and [think], 'Well, look at Hulkenberg'. I think it's just you focus on yourself, and it is what it is."
Ricciardo confident in his mental strength
With the start of 2022 having been challenging for Ricciardo, he may have to work hard to pull himself out of the doldrums and show his strengths.
However, having been through similarly tough times last year, Lando Norris' teammate is confident that he has the ability to bounce back from rough patches.
"It is [in my nature]," he explained.
"Last year was such a good kind of reminder for me that I can do it, because last year I think was the biggest challenge, so I've gone through it now and come out with the Monza win.
"So I feel like anything now I can do, and I can come out of anything. I think as well, if I find myself in those struggles again, I have methods to pull myself out quicker, because I learned from being low.
"Obviously I don't want to feel that, so I'm able to kind of acknowledge it, [and] have the self awareness to [think], 'Hey, let's not go back to 2021 in that moment'."
Yet Ricciardo knows that he has to improve in 2022, with McLaren CEO Zak Brown recently commenting that the race winner has not been meeting expectations.
Speaking after a difficult qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix, Ricciardo told media, including RacingNews365.com: "I don’t want to be qualifying 14th, especially on a circuit which I still have a big admiration for and a love affair with.
"But equally it’s not just me, it's the team, the team want to see me get better results. It's not just me that's not wanting to be 14th, the team don't want to see me there as well.
"I don't think it necessarily changes the course moving forward. But for sure there's an emphasis on us improving together.
"For me at the moment to get up to that, to push my car on the limit and to get it out of myself, it's still a little bit of a difficulty or a battle."
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