Daniel Ricciardo has praised the 'unexpected kindness' of Sebastian Vettel following his axe by McLaren.
Neither Ricciardo nor Vettel will feature in F1 next year, with the former unable to secure another race seat and the latter retiring.
Since joining McLaren in 2021, the Australian has struggled for form, showing only occasional glimpses of his best, notably victory in last year's Italian Grand Prix, the team's first success since 2012.
During the tough times, Ricciardo has revealed to being provided with much-needed support from his former Red Bull team-mate.
“I won’t go into detail in terms of what was said, but as a general comment, he’s picked up the phone multiple times this year and has just been a friend, shown care, checking in, as a true friend would do," said Ricciardo.
“To have friends like that is so important but it’s also not that common.
"In terms of on the grid, we get on with drivers and you do build friendships, but to have that deeper level of friendship...some gestures he’s made this year and some of the kindness he’s shown towards me was in a way kind of unexpected.
“It’s just super nice of him.”
Ricciardo has been open in his desire to secure a reserve drive with a leading team, with the view of landing a potentially race-winning seat for 2024.
It now appears almost certain he is returning to Red Bull in that role, however, the 33-year-old is all too aware Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could prove to be his final F1 race drive.
"I can’t sign a contract today to guarantee me a seat in ’24," he added. "No one will do that. It’s not possible.
"But I’ll just try to do all I can next year to try to show that I still have the desire and the skill to do it.”