Ricciardo admits decision on future had an impact on performance

It was a decision that took many by surprise, not least Helmut Marko and Christian Horner, but not one taken in the heat of the moment.

Indeed, aware that his contract with Red Bull was coming to an end, Daniel Ricciardo spent many months contemplating the various options, be it remaining with the Austrian team or possible seats at McLaren or Mercedes, to name but two.

Though reliability was to impact the second half of a season which had got off to such a strong start, the Australian admits that the stress of deciding his future also played a part in his roller-coaster year.

“At time, I didn’t think so,” he tells ESPN. “I feel like even if I was to, say, trip and fall over on the way to the car and scratch all my arm, by the time I got in the car it would be blacked out in my head.

“I guess what would have affect, which you probably don’t think at a time, is when you’re away from the track and instead of getting eight hours sleep a night, you’re getting six hours sleep because your brain is ticking, for sure this has some form of an accumulated affect.

“Again, I think I am stronger than that and when I get in the car I am sweet, I am switched on, but maybe it did take a little bit away from me without me knowing. For sure there were nights where I didn’t sleep as I should have because I had a lot on my mind. Then that builds up and I was probably not as sharp as I once was.”

Asked if, like Valtteri Bottas, 2018 was the most difficult season of his F1 career, he admits: “One hundred percent.

“Even if you ignore the results there was so much going on around it,” he adds, “highs and lows. Some of the DNFs were crazy but then the same year there was the high of Monaco and stuff like that, so it’s a weird one.

“It was definitely as intense a season as I’ve experienced, both before and after I decided what I was doing next year.”