That was the message Daniel Ricciardo delivered over team radio as he crossed the line to take a long-awaited eighth career victory in Formula 1 at the Italian Grand Prix. 

It was a moment of pure relief and redemption for the Australian, who has endured a difficult first half-season at McLaren and had not tasted the winning feeling for over three years, or more specifically, 1,204 days. 

Ever since Ricciardo last stood on the top step of the podium at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, his F1 experience has been a rollercoaster ride of conflicting emotions. 

That was evident in the release of jubilation in Ricciardo’s voice as he screamed in celebration after becoming F1’s latest surprise winner to end McLaren’s near-decade-long wait for victory at Monza - the same venue where the team had come agonisingly close to its first win since 2012 just 12 months earlier.

“It means everything,” Ricciardo said. “I definitely try not to make, or dictate, my life happiness around the sport because it’s been three-and-a-half years since I won, so I’d be pretty miserable most of the time if I just based my happiness on winning races.

“A lot has happened since Monaco 2018, so to be back here in this moment that’s why we love the sport. It makes all those crappier days worth it and it’s as simple as that.”

Swapping Red Bull for Renault was a move that did not really work out as hoped for Ricciardo, who picked up just two podiums in 38 races. A lack of team progression left Ricciardo with doubts and when the door opened to join McLaren, he jumped at it.

Ricciardo has faced a tough start to 2021 and been comprehensively out-performed by younger teammate Lando Norris as his struggles to find the sweet spot of McLaren’s MCL35M challenger lasted far longer than expected. 

But at Monza, Ricciardo was back to his best and turned in his strongest weekend performance since his Red Bull days. He jumped ahead of Norris and Hamilton at the start of the sprint race to qualify third for Sunday’s grand prix and was then elevated onto the front row when Valtteri Bottas took an engine penalty. 

A rocket start propelled Ricciardo into the lead ahead of former teammate Max Verstappen, before he kept the Red Bull driver at bay throughout the opening stint. While a dramatic collision that eliminated both Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton made his path to victory slightly more straightforward, Ricciardo appeared to have things under control anyway. 

It was a flawless performance from Ricciardo to head home McLaren’s first 1-2 since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix and end his own personal winning drought, a thirst he quenched with his trademark ‘Shoey’ celebration on top of the famous Monza podium. As he soaked up the celebrations, Ricciardo enjoyed the reprieve he had long been seeking.

“It feels, I don’t know what the word is… it’s reassuring for me,” Ricciardo said. “I believe in myself obviously; I think everyone does to get to this point in the sport. I’ve certainly been challenged this year and you know the sport is just a tricky one.

“It’s not so black and white I guess, and sometimes you do struggle to find some answers but I think you have to stay… true to the course and you can easily get lost as well. 

“I think, deep down I would have moments of frustration or moments of dropping my head but I kind of made a point never to let that last.

“I think like those things make you definitely appreciate the good days but also they make you understand some internal questions within yourself and how much you want it and how much it means to you.”

Amid his on-track difficulties this year, Ricciardo has been unable to visit family and friends in his native Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic began due to tough travel rules.

Ricciardo admitted there have been moments where he “fell out of love” with F1 but he insisted he always knew he had that kind of performance within him.

“For moments you fall out of love with the sport but actually, the clarity you get afterward, it kind of makes you realise how much you do love it and how much you want it,” he said.

“I think that’s the biggest thing this weekend, that I knew I’d have a chance to fight for a podium and yes, the want shone through and when it gets to that point and that level, I would back myself to the hilt.

“It’s just wild - there have been lows this year but deep down I never lost faith or the belief.”

The August summer break provided Ricciardo with the time to have a much-needed reset, a key factor behind his recent form turnaround that has highlighted his resilience and strength of character. 

“I think I also just needed to step back and that’s where I think having some time off in August helped,” he explained. “I truly think that helped this weekend, to get to this position.”

Ricciardo’s victory in Monza provided a resounding response to his doubters and underlined exactly why McLaren had moved so quickly to sign him as a replacement for the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz

“We all don’t know what he did exactly in these three weeks - we probably don’t want to know,” joked McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl. 

“Sometimes it is good to have a break and a bit of a distance after a very intense time for him when he was putting in a lot of energy together with the team and the results did not come. 

“Maybe he needed that break to step away a bit, reflect, and then come back and apply everything we worked through in the first half of the season. Somehow that seemed to work from the first outing onwards in Spa, and worked out over the course of the triple-header, in Zandvoort we struggled overall with the performance of the car. 

Seidl added: “Daniel struggled with integration, getting used to our car at the beginning, but there’s a reason that we wanted to get him on board. 

“He’s a proven racer and he’s one of the best ones in that sport and it’s great to see now after the break that it’s coming and to pull off a weekend like this, it’s obviously great for us.”

So, is Ricciardo’s breakthrough victory a sign he has now cracked McLaren’s car?

“Closer, it’s definitely closer,” he said when asked that very question. “I think there is still more to come. 

“I don’t know if you will ever find anything but that’s obviously the way the sport is. The sport evolves and changes and you are trying to keep up with it. 

"Just inside myself I’ve felt better since the second half of the season and that doesn’t always need to translate into lap times. It’s just me throwing the car around, feeling a bit more comfortable with it, that’s stuff I know. 

“I don’t think all of it has translated yet into the stopwatch but there is certainly a bit more comfort and confidence that’s coming through from myself. I just look to keep building on that. 

“I think we will get tracks that suit, some that don’t, but I would like to think the second half of the season there will be some more consistency and hopefully more of these type of results.”