Daniel Ricciardo has dismissed rumours of racing in a different series next year, saying his only desire after leaving McLaren is to stay in Formula One.
On Wednesday, McLaren and Ricciardo confirmed they will part ways at the end of the season, cutting his reported $15 million-a-year contract short one season early.
To stay in F1 Ricciardo has the choice between Alpine, Williams and Haas for next year, although he has not ruled out the possibility of taking a sabbatical in the hope of having more options available in 2024.
Although there have been suggestions of Ricciardo turning to IndyCar, where McLaren has its own team, or NASCAR, the eight-time grand prix winner says he only wants to compete in one place.
“I still love the sport,” Ricciardo said on Thursday. “Through all of this, call it adversity, I haven’t lost that confidence in myself.
“For sure, we’ve had some tough weekends and you can’t help but show emotion sometimes. I still love it and I still want to do it competitively, I want to do it in the right place.
“I never said I just want to be a driver to make up the numbers, if I’m here I want to be here for a purpose. I don’t know what that means yet for the future. But of course, if it’s the right opportunity, this is where I want to be.”
When asked if the option of taking a year off is something he would consider, he said: “If it made sense, yes.
“It’s the only racing I’m interested in, this stage of my career, F1 is what I love. It’s where I see myself if I’m doing any racing. If the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year and if it means taking that time off to reset or re-evaluate, if that’s the right thing to do then I’m willing to.”
Although Ricciardo was informed of McLaren’s decision after the Hungarian Grand Prix, there had been discussions behind the scenes for a while as the two parties tried desperately to rectify his disappointing run of form and results.
“It wasn’t just a random call one day and ‘this is what we’re doing’. We’ve been in dialogue for really the last few months.
“It wasn’t ‘hey, don’t top five this race and you’re done’, but it was more ‘what can we do as a collective try to keep making this work?’. There was a lot of dialogue but I understood that was a point of concern because the results I was getting were not up to the level that we all thought they could have been.
“We did talk, I wanna say months, about it and ways to rectify the issues but also potentially like, what next, what now. We came unfortunately to a bit of a dead end where we felt we’d exhausted most things that were at least in reach at the time and that’s when obviously they made the decision.”
In an unusual quirk of F1, Ricciardo will see out the season at McLaren, meaning he will race for nine more races at the team which just gave him the boot, starting with Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.