Clearly, that hope wasn’t enough to convince him in the end. He needs a change of team, to inject some belief. Not in himself – as this interviewed highlighted, he’s not short of self-confidence. But despite two brilliant victories this year, Red Bull lost him mentally at some point along the trail.
Still, Ricciardo hardly cut a sorry figure when we met him. That’s not his style. He doesn’t do the pouty Formula 1 driver stereotype.
“I get upset when I see some guys not enjoying it,” he said on the subject of life in F1. “Everyone has bad days. Some days I’m fed up with the sport, there are so many ups and downs. If I could really do it again, start as a kid, I probably wouldn’t because there are so many other variables which are frustrating.
“At the same time, I do love my job. Nothing is perfect, but it’s not a bad position to be in, to travel and at least see some of the world. Other drivers… even in interviews, just smile. Even if it’s fake, just do it.”
But that admission that he’d think twice if he had the chance to start all over again… Was that another sign of his disaffection? Maybe.
Ricciardo should have years ahead of him in F1, whether it’s with Renault or another team at the end of his new two-year contract. But that doesn’t stop him looking ahead to what life will bring when it’s over. This is a man with a wider view of life.
“Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to do a road trip through America. I kind of joke about it, but I don’t know if I am joking: part of the reason why I’ll stop when I do is because I actually want to do these things, and I don’t want to do them too late in life.
“I’d like to do the road trip with a few mates. Do the big things like the Grand Canyon, but also do the Daytona 500 – then just go to small unheard-of towns and watch a guy play a banjo for 10 people… I’m fortunate to already do a lot, but you kind of get a taste for the travel. Most of the time it’s just a tease because we’re there, but not really…”
Racing drivers don’t often talk about life post-retirement when they are still only 29. It makes us wonder: if he doesn’t see progress at Renault, and Mercedes or Ferrari still don’t come calling in the next few years, will he lose his patience with F1?
He is yearning to take the next step and experience what it’s like to challenge for a title. When asked what it’s like racing against two drivers who are statistically among the greatest of all time, this is how he responded.
“Are you talking about Seb?”
“I beat him.”
We broke into laughs, but the feigned arrogance was only a partial joke.