Daniel Ricciardo said he could take a ‘sabbatical’ from Formula One next season “if it makes sense” after his split with McLaren.
The Australian was speaking to reporters ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix on Thursday, a day after he and the team announced their separation at the end of the season.
“If it makes sense, yes,” the 33-year-old driver said when asked whether he might consider a year out if the right opportunity did not come along.
“(Formula One) is the only racing I’m interested in. At this stage of my career, F1 is what I love and where I see myself if I’m doing any racing. But let’s say the stars don’t align and it doesn’t make perfect sense next year and if it means taking that time off to kind of reset or re-evaluate, then if that’s the right thing to do then I will.”
Ricciardo will not suffer financially, with McLaren effectively paying him millions not to race for it.
“We’ve had to write a big cheque, which is fine because that’s the deal we cut,” McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown told the High Performance podcast.
McLaren has not commented on the sum, with media speculation ranging from $9 million to $16 million.
Several teams have yet to confirm their lineups, including Renault-owned Alpine -- Ricciardo’s previous employer which is battling McLaren for fourth place overall.
Alpine wants Australian reserve driver Oscar Piastri to replace departing double world champion Fernando Alonso but the 21-year-old has rejected the offer and is expected to join McLaren.
If Alpine does not take Ricciardo back, another option might be Ferrari-powered Haas which has Mick Schumacher out of contract at the end of the year.
Ricciardo said he had not lost any self-confidence and wanted to race for a purpose rather than making up the numbers.
“No-one has a perfect career... this is another challenge, another hurdle but I simply see it as if I want to pick myself up I will,” he said.
“It’s a decision they (McLaren) have made but it doesn’t change the way I’m going to go racing. I only know how to race one way.”