Daniel Ricciardo has declared that success in the second part of his F1 career does not centre around winning.
The Australian returned to the grid midway through the 2023 season, replacing Nyck de Vries at Scuderia AlphaTauri.
While that return was short-lived after breaking his hand during practice for the Dutch Grand Prix, when he finally recovered from injury he quickly showed he still has what it takes to compete at the front of the field.
He qualified fourth for the Mexico City Grand Prix and went on to deliver the team’s best result of the year with a seventh-place finish.
That single result lifted Scuderia AlphaTauri off the foot of the constructors’ championship table, and went a long way to securing it eighth in the final standings.
It is those results, and the feeling of contribution, that Ricciardo is now chasing, a feeling he immediately began to rediscover when he first climbed into the car at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
That stemmed from the time he had off at the start of the year, a time when it was uncertain whether he would ever return to an F1 grid.
“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 said.
“Because the power of time off, for me, what just really, really beneficial and it gave me so much.
“And fortunately, I didn’t find enough in those six months.
“If would have asked me in January, okay, you’re going to jump in an AlphaTauri in Budapest, how do you feel? I would’ve said ‘I’m probably not ready, I need more time.’ I wouldn’t have made that much sense to me.
“But then by that point [Silverstone tyre test] it just made a lot more sense. And then driving the car, I was ‘alright, this feels fun again’.
“Even when I qualified, I don’t know, 14th or something, I was still just having fun.”
Ricciardo has cut a different figure in the paddock since his return.
While his trademark smile never left during the latter stages of 2022, it was somehow less genuine than it had been.
Stepping back into the paddock in Hungary, where he was presented to a wall of media, he appeared a different man to that who’d quietly left McLaren at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix half a year prior.
At that point, there were questions about Ricciardo’s ability and desire to carry on, having been beaten comprehensively by Lando Norris in their two years together.
But in Hungary, the spark which had seen him win seven grands prix with Red Bull had returned.
The time away, it seemed, served him well and a sport that had looked to have crushed him was fun and exciting once more.
“That was really important for me,” he explained.
“I think just having a bit of perspective with the time off and I was ‘okay, it’s not my enjoyment in the sport should not be results based’.
“Yes, I’ll know what’s a good lap or what’s a good race and that’ll help me sleep at night but it doesn’t just need to be winning everytime.
“I think that’s where I was. I came to the kind of place where I was totally happy and comfortable, at that time driving for the 10th placed team on the grid where last year, when I said I don’t want to jump back into a car if it’s fighting at the back, it didn’t make sense to me.
“But it slowly started to make more and more sense.”