Racing relieved Ricciardo after departure announcement

Daniel Ricciardo says he was at his happiest when he lined up on the grid to start the Belgian Grand Prix, amid uncertainty about his future.

McLaren has paid Ricciardo significant compensation to terminate his contract a year early, with the eight-time grand prix winner now leaving the team at the end of the season.

With no firm plans on what he will do next, but with a desire to stay in Formula 1, Ricciardo says it was difficult to enjoy the race weekend at Spa until he was behind the wheel.

“It certainly hasn’t been the most fun weekend going through all of this, but at the same time it was nice to get back in the car and try to put it all behind me and have some fun,” he said. “When all the red lights came on, I was smiling and happy to be in that moment again.

“There were certainly some parts that I enjoyed. I’m glad most of this announcement is done, and I hope it’s a little more fun for the last eight.”

However, Ricciardo’s race did not go as planned as he slipped from seventh on the grid to 15th, at the back of a train of cars held up by Alex Albon’s Williams.

“I had to use the speed in the second sector, but then in the first and third sectors I couldn’t overtake even with the DRS… It was quite a long and frustrating race. It seemed that we were waiting for a mistake. I said on the radio: ‘Obviously I’m trying, but unless they make a mistake up front, it’s literally impossible to get through.’

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“The good thing about this year is that you can run closer, but the bad thing is that the drag effect is less, so on a track like this I felt that overtaking was more difficult.

“If we had had a little distance with him (Albon), the race probably could have gone a lot differently, but I think when his tires were fresh Williams actually had good speed to use.

“He struggled more with graduation, but early in the race he had rhythm. Like I said, that first and third sector, if you didn’t have a trailer from somebody out front, it was kind of easy.”

And with Alpine taking a 20-point lead over McLaren as Lando Norris also failed to score in Belgium, Ricciardo believes the team’s hopes of finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship are fading.

It sure is complicated. It’s hard. As we’ve seen, a big weekend can obviously make a big difference, but we feel like we’re probably a few steps away from a big weekend. It’s going to be hard. I think we only need small steps at a time.

“I feel like the last few weekends have been consistently a faster pack. Difficult task for now. It sure isn’t impossible. But I don’t want to say, ‘Yes, we will,’ because I think right now they’re a little bit quicker.”

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