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Why Hakkinen doubts Ricciardo will return to F1

With Daniel Ricciardo set to take a sabbatical from F1 in 2023, Mika Hakkinen has cast doubt on the Australian returning to the grid in 2024.

Former World Champion Mika Hakkinen says Daniel Riccardo shouldn't come back to Formula 1 if he is not on the grid next year. After a dismal 2022, Ricciardo's contract with McLaren is being terminated one year earlier than planned, and with no realistic options anywhere else on the grid for 2023, the Australian has spoken of his desire to find a reserve driver role with a view towards returning to the grid in 2024. Having won the F1 Drivers' Championship in 1998 and 1999, a loss of form in 2001 prompted Hakkinen to announce that he would take a sabbatical in 2002, which ultimately became full-time retirement as the Finn never did return to the F1 grid. Drawing on his own experience of having left F1, Hakkinen said it would be difficult for Ricciardo to convince people of his ability to perform at the highest level from 2024 onwards. "If Daniel decides to have one year off, from experience I know once you leave this sport normally you shouldn't come back," Hakkinen told The Race . "I think my position was a little bit different because I was already a two-time world champion, I'd achieved my goals. "Daniel has a different situation. His performance has been dropping, he’s not going flat-out, so people are not sure if he's quick enough. "That could make it difficult having a year off and coming back, because if you’re not quick enough, there's always some kind of explanation, some reason. "I feel he’s not giving this information very clearly to media, to fans, to the team. That's a bit scary; you have to know why [you're] not able to maximise performance to the same level as [your] teammate."

Hakkinen's sabbatical became retirement

Hakkinen added that the all-encompassing nature of several years in F1 championship battles had taken its toll, and he realised that he would not be able to give the commitment required to once again compete at the highest level. "I did recognise after three-four months, when the [2002] season started and I was in Monaco or wherever, I was definitely feeling like 'no way I wanted to go back there'," said Hakkinen. "It requires so much energy, so much power from your body and physiologically, a lot of energy. I knew that way 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. "You can't perform out there while thinking 'should I retire or not'. [You have to] go flat-out every second."

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