Medland: Ricciardo's ready — to retire from F1?


Chris Medland speaks to a Daniel Ricciardo at peace with his year out from Formula 1 — and comfortable that he may have raced his final grand prix

Daniel Ricciardo speaks at 2023 Red Bull F1 car launch

Ricciardo back at Red Bull for 2023 season launch

Red Bull

It really is the wrong word – retire – when we talk about drivers leaving Formula 1. They might not want to commit to such a demanding world championship anymore, but for many there’s plenty more out there to get stuck into.

And yet, it also seems like a massive moment when a driver does decide they’re not going to race in F1 anymore, whatever their motivations are circumstances might be.

For Daniel Ricciardo, it became his decision at the end of 2022 not to pursue a seat elsewhere on the grid. Haas would have welcomed him for talks with open arms but the Australian didn’t entertain it, instead feeling like he needed a break and to try and gain a more competitive drive — or at the very least just his own drive to compete — in 2024.

“I’m looking at having that time off for now. I’m not trying to pursue a seat elsewhere”

Sitting down with him on a deep leather couch in a makeshift green room hidden behind the bar at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan, it’s the first time I’ve seen Ricciardo since his role as Red Bull third driver was announced last November. And he has certainly been committing to his time off after six weeks in Australia.

“I’m probably not in as good condition as Checo or Max right now!” he admits. “But it honestly feels really good. At least for me now where I am at, it was nice to have a bit more of a break over Christmas.

“I think once the season starts, and when I go to Melbourne and get to the race, then I don’t know if it’ll feel weird – maybe then it’s different when the race is actually going and I’m watching. But you know, I’ve had first lap accidents before where I’ve watched the race on the sidelines! So it’s all good.

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“I really am excited just for what this year is going to bring. And even spending more time at home over Christmas was nice, just getting that time with family that you don’t always get and I think the older you get, the more you value that stuff. So that’s really important to me.

“Just knowing that this year I’ll have more of those opportunities will be nice. And then maybe that’s the reset that I need to then be like ‘Alright, 2024, let’s go’.”

The use of the word “maybe” is both sensible and telling. Ricciardo knows there’s no guarantee that his love for competing will return as a result of a year away from racing, and he’s more than comfortable with that potential reality.

Having had so much time off so far, Ricciardo’s appearance at the New York launch event was his first major requirement of his new position. And despite his vast experience, he’s not the driver that Red Bull will lean on at all races to jump in the car if required, which is a relief as he’s more concerned about the food scene in the Big Apple…

el Ricciardo on KTM motorbike at Red Bull factory

Sponsor-friendly shot during Ricciardo’s last stint at Red Bull. Now he’s keen to do some proper dirt biking

Red Bull

“No, I’m happy, not [hoping for a call-up] anytime soon – if they’re gonna catch a cold, maybe later in the season! But I really do feel at ease and happy with kind of just not taking the first few months of the year seriously. I would be probably a month into serious bootcamp already. So I feel like I’ve already had an extra month off, if I was to start training vigorously today.

“So even that I just feel kind of nice about it. And I know it will call me back and the training and all that desire and whatever, but it’s nice not to put pressure on it now or force it. I think it will happen naturally. And all those things will happen over time.”

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There will be eight races that Ricciardo attends in his role where he will be acting as reserve, so he does need to get the fitness level up in time. But as he looks for that fresh motivation to return that’s the only bit of potential driving he’s currently exposing himself to. Testing other categories isn’t currently on the radar for the 33-year-old, who admits knowing the start of 2023 doesn’t kick off a year as an F1 driver has left him excited for the potential elsewhere in his life.

“I think from a driving point of view, there may be a chance to do a tyre test or something in the F1 car, but other than that, I’m more just looking at having that time off for now. I’m not trying to pursue a seat elsewhere.

“Just the thought of not competing is kind of nice. I’ve been doing it since I was eight so, it’s still what I love but the time off is really what’s exciting me and going dirt bike riding with some friends or something is probably more of an interest right now. Just to kind of give myself that space.

“Even little things like I’m gonna go to the Super Bowl next week. Unfortunately, the Bills aren’t in – it still hurts – but things like this, and then building some of the businesses on the side and just giving them some more time.

“I love racing, but also love other interests. So I think this year will also give me an idea of what life looks like after racing. Because I think that’s also something where a lot of athletes are like, you compete your whole life, and then you stop and it’s like ‘oh, what now?’ So also to just kind of get a feel for that it’ll give me a better opportunity.”

Daniel Ricciardo watches F1 race from McLaren pitwall at 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Ricciardo is no stranger to watching from the pitwall: here at Interlagos last year after opening-lap collision

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With a clothing line, a vineyard and a karting category among other things, there is plenty for Ricciardo to be getting on with when we’re no longer seeing him behind the wheel of an F1 car.

It’s not that he’s closed the door already – far from it – but the enthusiasm with which he describes his year ahead suggests he’s feeling content if there’s never a route back into grand prix racing for him.

“I’ll split time between the US, back in Europe and Monaco and then the sim in the UK. And also it’ll give me a chance to get home through the year a few more times back to Oz. So yeah, sounds quite fun, doesn’t it?!

“So it’s the little things like when you’re racing, obviously it’s what I want to do more than anything and you’re privileged and grateful, but you do miss some of these little bits and pieces along the years. So getting some of those I definitely want to enjoy.”

Daniel Ricciardo - Championship Seasons