The 32-year-old joined McLaren after a two-year stint with Renault, his season highlighted by victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
It was his first grand prix success since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, and the team's first since 2012.
While that was the highlight of the year, his battle to come to grips with the unique driving style needed by the McLaren MCL35M were an ever present.
Ricciardo suggests that battle, and a growing sense of homesickness, combined to create a year of personal development.
“I think already moving from Red Bull to Renault I went through some, call it personal growth,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“But I think this year, probably two factors made it the biggest year for that.
“One was the challenges I faced with the car, and trying to obviously gel with that, and then I think the other one was obviously being away from home.”
Throughout the year, he often lamented his inability to interact with his family in a normal way – and told Speedcafe.com that all he really wanted was a hug from him mum.
The Perth-native hasn't been on home soil for close to two years; the aborted 2020 Australian Grand Prix the last time he'd been Down Under.
That came after a stint at home during the 2019-2020 off-season, a time during which he made the decision to leave Renault in favour of McLaren.
After an extended period away from the comforts of home, throughout the course of the 2021 season, it began to take a toll.
“Just not having some of those home comforts or family surroundings that you kind of you just used to,” he explained of the challenge of being away for an extended period.
“I think sometimes, if you live at home, you don't really notice it because it's always in front of you.
“But obviously when I left Australia and moved away from family, you certainly notice it more.
“But now, not seeing them for that long, that's a bigger thing.
“It's made me definitely appreciate other things in life, not just racing, and I think that's given me a lot of growth.”
Ricciardo ended the 2021 F1 season eighth in the drivers' championship with 115 points, compared to fifth with Renault with 119 points from 17 races the previous season.
McLaren slipped to fourth in the constructors' championship behind a resurgent Ferrari after the two squads were locked in battle throughout the year.
The 2022 F1 season gets underway in March, with pre-season testing set to begin in February.
As first reported by Speedcafe.com, McLaren's next generation chassis has already passed its mandatory FIA impact test.