Daniel Ricciardo is confident his Formula One dream is not over and said: “If I really want to return to the grid, I will make it happen”.
Ricciardo is spending this season on the sidelines after he was dumped by McLaren following two lacklustre years with the British team.
The 33-year-old is back in the paddock for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in his role as Red Bull reserve driver.
However, the eight-time race winner’s options for a full-time seat next year, certainly with a front-rank team, appear limited.
Alan Jones, the 1980 world champion, this week said he cannot see his compatriot returning to F1. Jones, Australia’s last world champion, also said Ricciardo spent too much time concentrating on activities outside of the cockpit rather than in it.
But responding to Jones’ comments, Ricciardo said: “I know me better than anyone. I know my feelings, and my desires, and my drive and it is going to be up to me and how badly I want it.
“I will show that intent with what I am doing off track, behind closed doors and when I am working with the team. A lot of people might just see what you are doing on social media, and it is often not a true representation of everything that is going on.
“I sit here today and I have confidence I will get back on the grid if that [pointing to his heart] is truly there, and three months into this year that doesn’t feel like it is lost. There have been little signs here and there that I have that desire, that hunger and that motivation.
“I know I cannot get to every team and be like, ‘I am driving for you next year’, but I feel like if I really want it, I will make it happen.
“I obviously don’t know what opportunities there will be and I won’t have 100 per cent of the say. But I am confident I can get back to the grid and be competitive and show a little bit of my old self.”
Following his messy divorce from McLaren, Ricciardo spoke with Haas and Alpine about a drive for this year.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner, who elected to sign Nico Hulkenberg after axing Mick Schumacher, said Ricciardo wanted 10million US dollars (£8m) to race for the American team.
However, Ricciardo, who was speaking at an event alongside champion surfer Mick Fanning to launch Red Bull Racing’s partnership with premium outdoor retailer YETI, said money will not be a motivating factor behind a possible comeback.
“Transparently it wouldn’t be about the money,” added Ricciardo. “I have had a pretty long career in F1 and when I look back, let’s say, I can buy the pair of jeans that I want to buy.
“But this year I will reflect on myself and where I am at in life. The reason to get back into it would be the reason why I started racing in the first place.
“It wasn’t to be famous. It wasn’t to make money but it was because I want to be the best, I want to win races and I want it more than anybody else and that is what will give me the drive to get back on the grid.
“One thing I do know is as much as I do see myself or want to put myself racing next year, I wouldn’t say that is at any cost.
“I want to be in a competitive car and I don’t want to restart my whole career from ground zero. I don’t see a decade ahead of me.”