Ricciardo announced prior to the 2020 season that his second year at Renault would be his last, signing a three-year deal with McLaren that began this year.
At the time of his departure Renault hadn’t scored a single podium since returning to the sport in 2016, although Ricciardo did later manage two third-place finishes in 2020.
Renault finished fifth in the constructors’ championship in both years Ricciardo was at the team, and the Western Australian says that was the main reason behind his departure.
Speaking on season three of the Netflix series Drive to Survive, the 31-year-old revealed the question he asked himself, with the answer locking in his fate.
“Can I win with all cars finishing? It still hurts to say this (but) the reality is no,” he said.
“Deep down I knew I had to leave.”
Ricciardo’s decision to sign for McLaren before the 2020 season had even begun created friction with team boss Cyril Abiteboul, with the pair practically ignoring each other in one scene.
“Every single one of us at Renault, our focus is on the stability of the team. Pure focus on this season’s performance,” Abiteboul says at the beginning of the episode.
“We need to be in a position for podiums and then fight for wins and then fight for championships – but Daniel has put a stop to all of that.”
The tension in the Renault team was apparent to Ricciardo’s former boss, Christian Horner.
“Is Cyril talking to you yet?” Horner asks Ricciardo at one point.
“Yeah,” Ricciardo replies, clearly uncomfortably.
Horner could sympathise with Abiteboul, having seen Ricciardo announce his departure from Red Bull midway through the 2018 season.
“It’s probably a bit like being dumped by a girlfriend but she hasn’t moved out of the house yet,” Horner said.
“It must be an odd dynamic for Cyril, knowing for the entirety of the season he’s going to their biggest competitor. It is tough.
“You naturally shut down to that individual because they’ve left you. Cyril no doubt took that very personally.”
Abiteboul admitted Ricciardo’s departure was painful, believing the pair were committed for the long-term.
“What’s hurting the most is it’s not the long-term project I thought we signed up for.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!