Daniel Ricciardo admits his decision to leave Renault for McLaren was made more difficult by the lack of racing and a true competitive picture so far in 2020.
Formula 1’s season will get underway next month in Austria, after the planned first race of the year in Australia was called off on the Friday morning in Melbourne, when all the teams were in place ready for practice. Since then different countries have been in different states of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ricciardo signed for McLaren from 2021 onwards in place of Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz — something he admits was made more tricky by not having seen where the teams stack up in race trim.
“Having a lot of time to think about things like the future was good, but then it was also sometimes not easy because you’ve got all this time but not much action, I guess,” Ricciardo said during an F1 Instagram Live. “That was certainly difficult. The whole year has been crazy for things – even beyond coronavirus now. Making these decisions with only testing to go by this year, that wasn’t easy.
“For sure. ideally you race, you get going and you kind of make your mind up, but we’re not in those times now with that luxury. So not easy, but at the same time, not an overnight decision. I guess I would just say this whole year’s been weird, and continues to be weird!”
When Ricciardo made his decision, a start to the season had yet to be confirmed. With eight races in Europe now announced, the Australian says he is keen to pay Renault back for the faith it put in him when signing him two years ago.
“I think that was a big relief for everyone once they announced the official start date. It was like, ‘All right, we can see the end of the tunnel now, we can get going.’ I’m hanging out obviously to race, to compete but (also) to finish this journey and this chapter off with Renault in the best way possible.
“I still feel like I owe a lot to them on and off-track, so I’m glad that we can compete soon and try and do what I can. I’m pretty excited to say the least to get some sports going again.”
Ricciardo believes his own career could actually benefit from the enforced break, saying he can see himself racing longer as a result of the unexpected rest his body has had over the past three months.
“If anything it’s more fuel to the fire. It was nice to have some alone time and time to think and process, (but) it certainly fueled my desire more. I missed racing more than ever. I missed competing and the limelight — all the sort of stuff that goes with it, I missed it all. Not that I’d lost love for it at all, but it just reiterated my love for competing and the sport and my job.
“We travel so much, and you kind of just get into it and you go and you go and you go. But sometimes, you don’t really get a chance to stop, and it was, in a way, nice to be forced to stop. Just for our bodies, actually, not being in pressurized cabins (flying) all the time and all that sort of stuff.
“It’s probably, from a performance point of view, maybe given me a couple more years onto my career. So I see positives in it.”