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The Tough Road

Australian F1 driver DANIEL RICCIARDO has endured a tough campaign so far at new team Renault. We caught up with the 29-year-old at Melbourne’s Albert Park to talk tactics…

Dan, what can we possibly ask you that you haven’t been asked already?
What haven’t you heard? Someone just asked me what I like about Australia — and what do I listen to on the grid. I kind of like the random ones like that. What do I miss about Australia? I just said, like, meat pies and bakeries. I feel we do bakeries really well. I don’t actually eat that much bread – it’s just nice walking into a bakery and having so many options like caramel slices and jam doughnuts.

You look relaxed.
Yeah, I am. I guess I’m excited firstly to go racing again. I know this week is busy and it’s actually a hard one to soak in and enjoy because I’ve done it for a few years now. I think I’ve just got to a point where I accept that. And I’m not too bummed out about that in terms of – I would love to enjoy the Aussie Grand Prix more. Like, I’d love to get out and show my friends around Melbourne or whatever, but it’s just I end up having either meals at the circuit or ordering room service every night. So from that point of view, it’s not that enjoyable because it’s just so busy to try and get a chance to enjoy it. But I’m kind of just rolling with it and I know how it is so just not putting too much emphasis on the chaos of it and more looking at it from a point that I’m glad the testing is over and it’s like a new start with everyone and ready to get to work.

Are you nervous about the chance of never winning your home race?
No. I want it sooner rather than later, but it’s really up to me how much longer I’ll be in the sport. I feel as though that’s one thing that will keep me motivated – until I get an Aussie podium or an Aussie win. That’ll keep getting me out of bed to start a new season. In my head, I’ve now got five, six, seven years of chances to get that back – a lot can happen in that time. I don’t fear it never happening. I hope it does, but yeah I’ll try. I’ll definitely try. I think for me, of course, but also for everyone, for the sake of the fans. I’d just love to see what would happen if it happened. I’d just love to see the, I don’t want to say the chaos, but just what would happen. It’d be a beautiful mess, I’m sure.

You see Renault as a long-term project don’t you?
I think the hard thing with where I was at with Red Bull, there was a few things I think. Unfortunately when I got there, it was after four world titles so naturally I got there and I didn’t know but I believed I could do well against Seb [Sebastian Vettel]. I didn’t know, but I was like, “Well, if I do well against Seb that could translate to a world title in my first year with the team”. Every year, it was always, unfortunately just because of that, the expectations were just so high. And it ended up I had some wins and some awesome moments. I ended up always a little bit disappointed because I felt like I could have done more or the team should have been getting better results. Then the switch with Honda, and the way my season was kind of going, in the end it actually felt quite risky for me to stay because if the Honda didn’t work then it was another kind of lost hope or failed mission and I think that would have just made me more frustrated. And I just needed a change. There was too much risk for me getting a bit unhappy, which I didn’t want. And the results last year turned me a bit that way. I feel I have more years in this sport and I didn’t want it to be shortened because of me getting frustrated and saying “screw this”.

We often think of you as a young gun, but you’re actually 29 now. How do you feel about that?
I’m old as shit. I’m really old! Honestly, I kind of go back and forth with it. I mean, I remember when I was 25 – and I was like. “Woah, I’m going to be 30 in a few years and I’ll be old”. And when you get there, you think, “Oh, I still feel good and I’m healthy”. I think I’ve got more years in it than I think I do, also because the years go fast. It’s like “Woah, I’m already here, let’s just keep going”. I certainly don’t want to be, I don’t want to say I don’t want to be here when I’m 40, but ideally I’m not here until I’m 40. Ideally, I’ve achieved what I need to and what I want before then. And then I go and do something else with my life. But if it takes that long to get a world title, then I’ll probably keep sticking around. I guess it will take as long as it needs. This whole transition to Renault will be a process but I think out of the opportunities in front of me, this will be my quickest route to a world title. That’s what I believe, and I guess that’s why I’ve really signed here.

What’s your timeframe on success with Renault?
This year it was all about just progressing, and trying to get close to those top three teams. And next year it’s, “OK, we’ve got to be a regular podium car”. Realistically, we wouldn’t expect a world title next year. But if we start getting podiums, that’s going to keep everyone excited enough that it’s like alright, let’s kick on and make it happen in 2021. I don’t like talking that far ahead, though, as it’s also I don’t want to wait that long but that’s the realistic path with this whole project.

What have you seen at Renault that makes you excited for the future?
I visited the factory before I went home for Christmas last year, and there was a lot of noise and power tools going on – just a lot of construction. And I got there at the very end of January and it was all done and up. So the factory had changed in the space of six weeks and that was really impressive. Impressive to see work being done but also for me what is my time off, for a lot of people in the team that was their – what looked to be – busiest time of the year. I was impressed with how much work they’d done over the winter, so that alone – I remember walking in and thinking, “That wasn’t here last time” and because the factory was new to me I noticed a lot of these things.

Renault has said it’s going to get innovative with the way it introduces updates to the car. Are you excited about that?
Yeah, I am. A lot of the things for now I’m certainly putting a lot of trust into the team. And I think once I understand a bit more about the team, spend a few race weekends with them, I think I’ll have more to say, and have more of an opinion potentially on which way it’s going. But for now I know they’re not trying to bring little updates to the car here and there. It’s like let’s push towards something big and do it at certain points. And I’m trusting all that from their side now – and if it looks like it’s not working then I’ll speak up. But for now I’m sweet with their plan.

Your salary is always a hot topic in the media. How do you feel about that?
I’ll be honest. Like, for sure, I get a bit upset. For sure it’s personal, but I don’t like how people can write things without any real knowledge and write it like it’s fact. So that bums me out because a lot of people reading that will believe it. I saw a few headlines this week and I didn’t like the way it turned out to be honest. And also I feel like those questions are something my eight-year-old cousin would ask me. It feels a bit immature for an adult to ask how much you get paid. It’s just a bit unprofessional. Look, you’re never going to be completely happy with what comes out in the press but you can’t control it all. It is what it is. But it doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. Maybe because I am a home boy.

Looking towards the next time you’re in the Asia Pacific region, and the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix – one you’ve had podiums at in four of the last five visits – what have you done in Singapore other than go to the track?
Singapore, during the Grand Prix weekend, is so packed and the atmosphere is a real buzz. It’s actually quite difficult to get around as the track is included in the city centre and you’re boxed in a little bit! We have that crazy rhythm there where we sleep in the day and work in the night. I like Singapore noodles with a bit of chicken, that’s the best food out there. On the whole I like Singapore, it’s fantastic. ■

F1 CALENDAR HIGHLIGHT

An instant classic from when it joined the calendar in 2008, the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix continues to inspire as one of the world’s great events — one that goes far beyond the racing, with the hottest acts live on stage, interactive entertainment and parties galore.
On-track, it’s a feast for the eyes — with F1, and a host of thrilling support categories, going wheel-to-wheel under lights around the glamorous streets of Marina Bay. The world’s finest racers under maximum pressure — not only with cockpit temperatures soaring up to 60 degrees Celsius at racing speeds, but with the F1 World Championship on the line.
This year should see a six-way fight for the Singapore silverware, with Valtteri Bottas pushing 5-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, 4-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel under fire from his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, and Pierre Gasly going head-to-head with Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing. Daniel Ricciardo will wear yellow for the first time in Marina Bay this year, with the street circuit bringing drivers’ skills to the fore.
Once the racing finishes, the tunes begin — with Singapore renowned for its epic entertainment line-ups. 2019 is no different with 6-time Grammy Award winners, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, leading the Singapore’e events stellar 12th edition line-up, alongside Swedish House Mafia, Muse, Fatboy Slim, Hans Zimmer, and as well as Toots and the Maytals. Add to that the carnival atmosphere of a stunning night race in one of the world’s great cities — and it’s no surprise to learn that an average of 250,000 people attend every year. The action heats up as the lights go on, and the tension builds toward qualifying and the race.
It’s an awesome post-winter getaway from Australia, with the short flight and weekend format making it easy on annual leave — and accommodation, dining, and sightseeing options all within reach of the Circuit Park.
There’s an option for any budget with tickets starting from SG$98 (approx. AUD$100) for single-day general tickets, and SG$1592 (approx. AUD$1638) for single-day hospitality packages.

The Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2019 will be held from September 20-22. For more information go to singaporegp.sg

BY STEWART BELL

For the full article grab the July 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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