However, when the opportunity arose to replace Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, the Honey Badger admitted feeling like a new person.
“Sitting here a year ago, I was like ‘could this be my last race?' I don’t exaggerate when I say that. I really didn’t know. I honestly thought it was 50/50,” said Ricciardo.
“So, to have the year I’ve had and forget the hand [injury]. I just kind of feel a little bit reborn again. I feel re-energised, and I’ve definitely got a second wind.”
Ricciardo also reflected on how the period of time off turned out to be beneficial for him, even if he hadn't initially thought it.
“If I didn’t race at all this year, if I had a whole 12 months off, I think that would have been no problem,” Ricciardo added. “Because just the power of time off for me was just really, really beneficial and it gave me so much.
“Fortunately, I did find enough in those six months. If you’d have asked me in January ‘okay, you’re going to jump in at AlphaTauri at Budapest? How do you feel?’ I would have said ‘well, I’m probably not ready, I need more time.’
“But then by that point, it just made a lot more sense. Driving the cars, it feels fun again, and even qualifying 14th or something, it was still just having fun.”
Despite Ricciardo's earlier statement that he wouldn't consider returning to F1 unless he was competing at the top, he now expresses gratitude for the opportunity to be back behind the wheel.
“I really wanted to think just having a bit of perspective with the time off,” added Ricciardo. “It’s not like my enjoyment in the sport should not be results based but it doesn’t just need to be winning every time.
“I think that’s where I came to the kind of place where I was totally happy and comfortable, at that time, driving for the 10th place team on the grid.
"Last year I said I don’t want to jump back into a car if it’s fighting at the back but it’s slowly started to make more and more sense.”
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