Daniel Ricciardo successfully returned to the Formula 1 grid this year with AlphaTauri, several months after his disappointing two seasons with McLaren came to an end.
His stint with the Woking-based squad consisted of a race victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix but his term was ultimately overshadowed by lacklustre performances alongside team-mate Lando Norris.
After departing McLaren, the Australian linked up with former team Red Bull in a third driver role before being called up to race at the sister AlphaTauri team midway through the year.
His stint in papaya colours took a toll on Ricciardo's self-belief, as he told RacingNews365 in an exclusive interview.
“I realised when I stepped away over Christmas and when I jumped onto the Red Bull simulator, I just wasn't really me,” he said. “I lacked some confidence and I was a little bit nervous.
“With McLaren, we started to struggle and then we tried to understand it. But it never really got better, especially in 2022.
“Once I stopped I realised that not only were our results going down but also belief in myself and my confidence.
“I think that probably compounded the time at McLaren. Coming into doing the simulator at Red Bull, I started building my confidence back, I saw my times were competitive.
“I did the test at Silverstone which was a really good test. So then I was like, ‘Okay, I just needed some time off, I needed to be back in a team that feels like the car is my car’.”
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Nyck de Vries' rookie F1 campaign lasted just half a season and shortly after the Silverstone test, Ricciardo was handed an opportunity to race again - this time at AlphaTauri.
Having had several months away from the spotlight Ricciardo grew his confidence levels once more which enabled him to extract performance right out of the gates upon his return.
“Going into Budapest, I hadn't driven the AlphaTauri but immediately I got a good feeling with it. And I think then my confidence was back where it needed to be,” he said.
“I couldn't really exploit my strengths with that car. So then we started trying a lot of things, and I tried to change my style of driving. With that, my confidence started getting lower and lower.
“There's so much involved in this sport. You're always compared to your teammate, as well. So if your team-mate is doing consistently a good job then all the eyes are on you. There is more pressure, and then the engineer might feel the pressure, and then it can quickly get out of hand.
“It was important having the time off this year.
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Ricciardo has previously highlighted his desire to return to Red Bull before he ends his F1 career, having occupied a spot at the front-running squad from 2014 to 2018.
An opportunity may arise in 2025 as a struggling Sergio Perez will be out of contract at the end of next year.
As he continues to build himself back up at its sister squad, Ricciardo already has one eye on a reunion with his former squad.
“I don't say this negatively, it's not towards AlphaTauri, but let's say [for] my career I needed to take one step back to go two forward. I needed to reset,” he said.
“I think being here, it's something that I've enjoyed probably a lot more than I ever thought I would and even for myself just building myself back up, building my confidence back and being with a team that certainly kind of fills me with confidence.
“For next year they've got big plans I think we're going to move away from a junior team and really try to fight at the front of the midfield and get a bit more support from Red Bull.
“The energy is going in the right place and then we’ll see. My end goal would be to get back with Red Bull one day that's the fairytale. I would love to finish my career there.”