Daniel Ricciardo says he was at his happiest when lined up on the grid to start the Belgian Grand Prix, amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding his future.
McLaren has paid Ricciardo significant compensation to terminate his contract one year early, with the eight-time grand prix winner now leaving the team at the end of the season.
With no firm plans on what he will do next, but a desire to stay in Formula 1, Ricciardo says it was tough to enjoy the race weekend at Spa until he was behind the wheel.
“It certainly hasn’t been the most fun weekend going through all this, but at the same time it was nice to get back in the car and just try to put everything behind me and have a bit of fun,” he said. “When all the red lights were going on I was smiling and I was just happy to be in that moment again.
“There were certainly some parts of it I enjoyed. I’m glad that the bulk of this announcement is done, and hopefully it gets a bit more fun for the last eight.”
Ricciardo’s race didn’t go to plan though, as he slipped from seventh on the grid to finish 15th, at the back of a train of cars held off by Alex Albon’s Williams.
“I had speed to use in the second sector but then first and third I just even with DRS couldn’t pass … It was a pretty long and frustrating race. It just felt like we were waiting for a mistake. I said on the radio, ‘Obviously I’m trying, but unless they make a mistake in front, it’s literally impossible to pass’.
“The good thing about this year is you can race closer, but the bad thing is the tow effect is smaller, so actually on a track like this I felt like it made overtaking more tricky.
“If we’d had a little bit of distance on him (Albon), the race probably could’ve been very different, but I think when his tires were fresh, that Williams actually had good speed to use.
“He struggled more with deg, but early in the race he had pace. As I said, that first and third sector, if I didn’t have a tow from someone in front, I was a bit of a sitting duck.”
And with Alpine pulling 20 points clear of McLaren as Lando Norris also failed to score in Belgium, Ricciardo believes the team’s hopes of finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship are shrinking.
“It’s for sure tricky. It’s tough. As we’ve seen, a big weekend can obviously make a big shift for sure, but we feel like we’re probably a few steps away from a big weekend. It’s going to be tough. I think we just need small steps at a time.
“I feel like the last few weekends they’ve consistently been a quicker package. Tough task for now. For sure not impossible. But I don’t want to say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do it’, because I think right now they are a bit quicker.”