Daniel Ricciardo is not looking across at the Red Bull team with envy, more than three years after he chose to walk away from the team and company that brought him into Formula 1.
Ricciardo, a long-time figure on the Red Bull driver programme, made his debut with the HRT team in 2011 – a deal negotiated between the now-defunct team and Red Bull. Moving up to Toro Rosso in 2012, Ricciardo then progressed to the Red Bull senior team in 2014.
The Australian became one of F1's leading lights over the next five seasons, winning seven races for the team and gaining a reputation as a fearsome overtaker and hard racer. But, with Max Verstappen finding his feet at Red Bull by 2018, Ricciardo opted to strike out on his own and left for Renault.
Since then, Ricciardo's career has foundered. Two solid, if unspectacular, years with Renault unfolded before he opted to switch to McLaren for 2021. Despite a win at Monza, the year was tumultuous as Ricciardo struggled to keep up with young teammate Lando Norris.
With Verstappen clinching the Drivers' Championship, and Red Bull bringing the fight to Mercedes to the final race in the Constructors', Ricciardo was asked whether he has any regrets about walking out on his old team.
"Honestly, no," he told media, including RacingNews365.com, at the launch of the new McLaren MCL36 on Friday.
After pausing for a moment, he continued: "Why I hesitated, I don't want to say it like, 'No, I don't', like snappy and disrespectful to Red Bull, because they gave me a lot in my career. They really made a lot of this possible for me.
"But, yeah... I was there for five years and I felt like I did reach a little bit of a point where I wasn't... I really felt like I personally needed something fresh."
Ricciardo: "I'm not sure I could have fought for the title"
With Red Bull rejoining the fight at the very front of F1 in the third season after Ricciardo's departure, he is not sure whether he would have managed to make the necessary step forward to coincide with the improvement of the machinery.
"Of course, [in] 2021, they won the Drivers' title but, if I would have gone another year [into] 2019, 2020 and then '21, I'm not sure if I would have been a better version of myself," he reflected.
"So, if I was still there, maybe I wouldn't have even been close to fighting for a title – you just don't know."
Ricciardo said there have been no moments of looking across at Verstappen, envious of the Dutch driver's opportunity to realise his dream.
"I needed a bit of a change and, for sure, there's been some struggles through that change," he admitted.
"But honestly, I don't regret those changes I've been through, or the move I made at the time. That's all a part of the sport, and obviously learning more about yourself and growing up.
"I've had no [thoughts like], 'What could have been?', when I saw Max win the title last year. None of those, 'Poor me', feelings. If anything, I was happy for them to get back to the top. If it can't be me, then I'm happy for it to be them."
Video: McLaren present their new F1 car!
Check out McLaren's new F1 challenger, the MCL36, which was presented to the world during a special launch ceremony.