Ricciardo striving to balance on- and off-track pursuits while trying to re-ignite his F1 career

Pointless, lagging behind teammate Yuki Tsunoda in the 2024 head-to-head, and with expectations having been so high, Daniel Ricciardo entered the Miami weekend with the pressure mounting.

The signs had been better in China, but misfortune meant the result hadn’t followed, so you might have expected him to be a bit tense on arrival in Florida.

Not a bit of it, as we sat down to talk about his state of mind and he had a beaming smile on his face after nailing an NFL drill that was right in Ricciardo’s wheelhouse.

“God bless America!” he drawls. “I do love it. I mean, even 30 minutes ago, I was catching footballs in the paddock. So I feel like we tend to only do some of that stuff here. Which is just little things, but I really like it. I love sports in the States. Yeah, just the food… It’s all just good. I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff. I love it.”


And on the whole, America loves him. Ricciardo was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Netflix series “Drive to Survive” as a central character in the first season. With Mercedes and Ferrari absent, Red Bull and Ricciardo really leaned into the documentary, as his decision to eventually leave the team played out.

Heading to Renault in 2019, while he rarely had a race-winning car from that point onwards, Ricciardo was on a clear trajectory in the USA as a more recognizable star and one who spends so much of his time here. And even through his McLaren struggles, attention came his way.

“I haven’t made it my sole mission to be like, ‘I need to get America on my side’ and all that, but I think just me naturally, really enjoying it out here, and being a sport fan and being a bit of like a sports nerd in a way, I’m just embracing it and soaking it in,: he says. “I think my personality kind of comes out when I’m in interviews and most topics, I think people can relate, and they’re like, ‘Oh, he likes our sort of things as well.’

“That’s cool, and so then they become maybe naturally a bit curious about what I do. Obviously, I speak about Formula 1 with a lot of enthusiasm, and I’m just happy to share it with more people. And I think I know how big sport is in America. So you just get a little bit of interest, and it has so much potential. The sky’s the limit here.

“So, probably a little bit of recognizing that. But ultimately, it’s just trying to show off a sport that I love and I think fans can relate to probably a little bit of my goofiness.”

That relationship with the U.S. fan base has brought many opportunities to do things outside of Formula 1, further enhancing both his brand and his bank account. But in response to being dropped by McLaren, Ricciardo has actually given up some of those activities over the past 12 months, to try and strike the right balance between off-track and his work behind the wheel.

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting that balance,” he says. “Ultimately, if you’re doing things that you enjoy doing, then they are less taxing on you. So if it’s still maybe doing events or some PR stuff that is fun for me, then it will feel a little bit less of a carry. But we also can’t do everything and even now I frickin’ wanted to play football for an hour! But it’s: ‘OK, remember that you do have a weekend ahead of us, so don’t get carried away — conserve some energy.’

“I frickin’ wanted to play football for an hour!” Ricciardo admitted after his Miami scrimmage. “But it’s: ‘OK, remember that you do have a weekend ahead of us, so don’t get carried away — conserve some energy.’” Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

“I’m still a kid and I think that probably got me maybe too excited at times. But I think just the perspective of losing my job ultimately at the end of ’22 and not having a guaranteed way back in. I think then it just made me rethink how I work.

“[I decided] I would change my approach a little bit. And if I did get a chance again, just to make sure that I fulfilled every part of that first and foremost, and didn’t get too caught up in the other stuff. It’s not that I ever took it for granted, but I was just maybe not always prioritizing it the way I would have as a young, hungry 17-year-old kid, and that’s what I wanted to get back to.”

Nearly 35, it wasn’t a simple decision for Ricciardo to turn down some of the offers that came his way more recently because there are no guarantees he will have a seat in F1 much longer. But when he found that once he gave himself the room to focus more on fitness and racing, the motivation to perform to his potential grew even stronger.

Miami would have been one of the most hectic and draining weekends outside of the car had Ricciardo taken up every approach that came his way in the past, but a better balance would go on to help the Australian score his first points of the year with an outstanding fourth place in the Sprint. It was a result that vindicated the evolution of where his priorities are, even if Ricciardo had already realized how important it was for him adjust his commitments.

“I think it was really first and foremost, probably being more selective of the things I do,” he explains. “So yes, I’m still doing stuff off-track, and whether it’s like Enchanté — the clothing brand — I have a good team around me, which helps, but it’s something that I love and I enjoy, and it’s not like I’m stressed about it.

“It’s fun things, you know — we’re receiving new designs, and we’re changing this and that. So that’s a light carry and something that I would call a good distraction for me. But then obviously, there is the way the sport is now. Where do you draw the line?

After the extracurricular fun, Ricciardo locked in on the task at hand in Miami. Clive Mason/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

“We’re very fortunate to have so many opportunities in front of us that yes, it’s tempting to take a lot of them. But it’s just like, where do I draw the line? And ultimately, what do I want my off-weeks to look like when I’m not at the track? How much do I value my rest, my recovery, my training, and these are things that I probably just neglected a little bit.

“Then having the time off last year, I got back into a routine, I started training again, like a lot, and I just fell back in love with those things. And I was like, ‘This is what I need to give me that longevity … this is what I need to feel re-energized.’

“So I was like, make sure I don’t neglect this. If I can do some extracurriculars here and there, sure. But this is my core, and I can’t mess with this.”

Story originally appeared on Racer