Unwilling to drop down the grid and join Haas or Williams, Ricciardo rejoined Red Bull as their third driver.
Ricciardo made his first public appearance of the season at last weekend’s Australian GP – his home event.
Speaking during the weekend in Melbourne, Ricciardo explained the benefits of having a year away from F1.
“Once you’re in the season, it’s relentless,” he said. “All you really have a chance to do is dissect the last race and [say] ‘okay, the set up was this and we’ll do that next time’. You don’t actually get a look at the big picture.
“Even like now I look back and even like the last two years at McLaren and I’m like, ‘okay, yeah, I understand why that didn’t work,’ ‘I would have done that better or done that differently or cut these things out or added that’.
“So I’m even in a position now, only a few months removed from last season, where if I get back on the grid next year I already have things that I want to do different and it’s quite cool. I wouldn’t have had that if I was still in the race car.”
Ricciardo ruled out returning to F1 “just to be on the grid” and “struggle in 18th place” suggesting he’d only return with a competitive team.
“One thing I want to get out of this year is I want to know what I want, but I also want to know what I don’t want,” he added. “And I think I can already answer that.
“I don’t want to go back to ground zero. I don’t want to just be on the grid [in order] to be on the grid and struggle in 18th place. So I don’t want to be on the grid at any cost.
“I know that it’s harder to just jump straight into a top team in terms of availability. But I know that’s where I want to be. I know I thrive in those situations when there is more on the line.
“I think at this point in my career to [have] that real hunger and motivation to race at the front, that’s that’s all I really want. I know it probably makes it even a little harder to get to, but that’s where I’m looking.”