Daniel Ricciardo Q&A: "I have a fire inside me that’s getting stronger each race"
It is now a year since Daniel Ricciardo last won a Grand Prix.
It is now a year since Daniel Ricciardo last won a Grand Prix. His first podium of 2015 in Hungary was a welcome boost.
A relaxed and cheerful Ricciardo sat down in the Spa paddock to review progress this season and to look ahead to the rest of the 2015 season.
Q: Does Spa have special memories after your win here last year?
Daniel Ricciardo: It’s been a year since I won a Formula 1 race and it definitely goes quickly. [I have] great memories here from last year – the race went well, we took the lead early but we held it and we had really good pace from early on that we kept throughout the whole race, so that was good.
To win at Spa is very prestigious and it was the first win that my parents were present for, so that was really nice for them as that’s something they’ll never forget. So I’ve got very good memories [from Spa].
Q: Last year you were a three time winner but this year it’s been a lot more difficult for Red Bull to win – how has that affected you?
DR: You just have to lower your expectations. But I understand where we are now this year, so I’m not getting too excited about the prospect of winning every race. You find different ways of getting motivated – I still have a strong fire inside my stomach and if anything that’s getting stronger each race. Every race that passes where I don’t have a chance of winning or even getting on the podium is just making my desire for winning even more.
At least spraying a bit of champagne last race was good; it got a few cobwebs out. That was a nice little relief, but other than that you just have to keep enjoying driving and then hopefully the result comes. If it doesn’t, then you keep trying.
Q: Was it a case of déjà vu in Hungary from 2014 as you raced a Mercedes with a slower Ferrari just ahead?
DR: I did [think I was going to do it again]. When I started to close and got on the back of Nico and he was on the back of Seb and it was the same cars – a Ferrari, Merc and a Red Bull – I got those excited feelings in my stomach and I was ready to go.
I really thought it was going to happen, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t going to be given to me and I needed to make it happen. I tried and we know the outcome, but it was worth a try and I’m still happy with the third [place]. There’s no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ it was a good race.
Q: From being in the thick of the action, do you think Ferrari have got a realistic shot of winning the 2015 title?
DR: I think they are a bit like us last year: they’re probably closer than we were, but it’s probably a pretty big outside shot. I think it’s going to need a few more poor races from Mercedes – and when I say poor, I mean incidents or reliability issues – because if Seb is winning, I think naturally the Mercedes will be second and third.
I don’t think he’ll be able to win that many races to be able to take enough points from them, so unless he wins a few and they have some DNFs or something, I still think Mercedes are hard to beat. [On] the tight and twisty circuits the Ferrari seems to be closer, but around here this weekend, I think Mercedes will stretch their legs.
Q: Have Red Bull reached a point with the chassis where if you dropped a class-leading engine into the car you’d be running at the front?
DR: The overall result from Budapest was good, but the positive for us as a team was that the car was working well. We know about the lack of power with the engine but there have been times this year when the chassis has been underperforming as well.
But at the last few races, particularly Budapest, if we got it in the sweet spot, it’s back to where it was last year and it is a very strong car. I think our understanding of where the sweet spot is, is now a lot better and I have confidence that we’ll now find it a lot more often than not. The car is coming along and we’re getting a few updates here and there which are helping.
Q: When Renault introduces its upgraded engine later this year in Sochi, you ought to be able to get much further up?
DR: On paper, if we gain horsepower and everything that we should, it should put us in a good position. You think it would put us comfortably alongside Ferrari, but again, its one of those things.
Last year we were getting updates but even on the dyno, sometimes it might say something but when you put it on track it can be something else. I’ll always downplay it a bit, I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than get let down.
Q: But if the engine does improve and Renault can make a step like Ferrari did last year, you’ll be back in the hunt won’t you?
DR: [Sochi] could be a very big turning point in our season and for next year as well. I guess time will tell for now, but fingers crossed it’s a rocket!
Q: You’re now an F1 superstar – is that reflected in your life outside of the paddock?
DR: Last year, winning the races put my name on the map. Within the F1 world I’ve got a bit more attention and respect from drivers and teams, so I guess that has improved my profile as a driver. For myself, not what has happened on the outside, but on the inside, for me what I got from those wins meant I drew a lot of confidence from those results. The self-belief I think you need to succeed at this level without being arrogant or anything like that, it’s just that level of confidence that will take me that step further when I can.
There’s still a lot of places that I go, I’m sure a lot of us drivers do, and don’t really get recognised. I was in America before Budapest, in Las Vegas and LA, and the only people that recognised me were Aussies who were travelling. In a way it was really nice to go in under the radar. It’s a tough one because it is nice to have fans all around the world, but at the same time its nice to go to a place and know you’re going to be completely left alone for a week or two wherever you are.
Q: Is Lewis Hamilton the most well known of all you drivers?
DR: I think so, obviously through the things he does but also through social media and attending VIPs events. He’s in the whole music and movie industry and that sort of stuff gets your name out there pretty quick. That’s cool and that’s what he is choosing to do – I guess he’s thinking long term and post-F1 career.He’s obviously got some opportunities and is using them and its not for everyone – I know Seb [Vettel] would never do that, but if that’s what Lewis is happy doing then I don’t really blame him.
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