Three races in and it’s already been a rollercoaster ride for Daniel, taking in a ‘heckers’ weekend at home in Melbourne, dismay in the desert of Bahrain and the height of delight in China just seven days later.
So, how does the Honey Badger feel right now? Well, unsurprisingly, he’s pretty rapt, or something similarly Aussie, mate…
How is life being Daniel Ricciardo at the moment?
The same as it has been for the last 28 years?! I’ve never been anyone else, so I couldn’t tell you other experiences!
No, it’s cool at the moment. I had a really nice Christmas at home and a good off-season. But it was actually the first time in my F1 career at least where I felt like the off-season was too long.I take all of December off and then January comes and I start getting back in the gym and I start setting a routine. So I’m there beating myself up in the gym and it was still more than two months until the start of the season. I was anxious. I was in limbo. I just wanted to go racing.
Let’s look back at Australia. A more positive home race for you this time than in 2017. Was the whole event better this year?
Up until the Sunday it wasn’t the best week. When I say that… Look, the week leading up to it was fine. It was busy, but I had some fun. The penalty on Friday put a damper on it. Just knowing how hard it is to overtake there, any kind of penalty was tough, whether I was on pole or any other position I knew it was going to hurt. It was frustrating but the race was encouraging, the pace was good, so I could see the chequered flag on Sunday and have a little bit of a smile on my face. I could relax Sunday night, finally.
After that there was the low of the Bahrain DNF but just a week later you were on top of the podium in Shanghai. Have you ever had a contrast of emotions like that before?
Probably not. I’ve definitely had some highs and lows with racing but that was a pretty big one. It’s weird – from one week to the next you can be head down and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re on top of everything.
In some ways, it was even less than a week. On Saturday morning in Shanghai you must have been worried. Tell us about what the garage crew did to get you out for qualifying?
It was kind of like a 24-hour turnaround. After Bahrain and then with Saturday morning in China I though ‘phew, we can’t really catch a break’ but then the boys did awesome to get me out in qualifying. I only qualified sixth but little did we know that actually meant we were able to win the race. If they had got me out two minutes later I would have been starting at the back. I would have had a charge through the pack? But would I have got up to first? Probably not. That was huge from them, really, really cool.
Did you expect to have a win this early in the season and to win before Mercedes?
No! Ha, ha! Within myself, yes, but otherwise no. Go back to Saturday in Melbourne when Lewis out-qualified everyone by seven tenths or something. If you had said then ‘you will beat him before he gets a win’, then no, I wouldn’t have said that. It’s pretty cool. So, thanks Mercedes for being slower this year, appreciate it!
After China is there a different vibe about this season for you?
I think already after Melbourne… We missed the podium but we felt like we were quick enough. There was a good vibe leaving Melbourne. Bahrain we couldn't really show, but we felt like we were going to be strong. So to come out in China and do what we did, that was really encouraging. I’ve got a good feeling for sure.
I still feel we’ve got to make another little step to be fighting every weekend, but everyone is in pretty good spirits now, so we’ve got the motivation we need.
Where does China rank among your six wins?
Up there. They’ve all been cool; I love every single one of them. China reminded me a little bit of Budapest in 2014, because we were coming through towards the end of the race with a fresher tyre but we still had to pass some of the best drivers in the world. In China we had the tyre advantage but we still had to get through the top five guys, and that was a lot of fun. I loved it, and Baku felt a long time ago; it was a long time between drinks.
Baku is coming up. Looking back at it a year on, what are your memories of it now?
It was a fun weekend. It was a testing weekend. It’s obviously a race I’m looking forward to going back to. It’s a crazy circuit, but a lot of fun. In qualifying I crashed and while I was disappointed with myself I wasn’t disappointed with the situation. I liked the fact that I was pushing and I paid the price.
I was still very excited for the race. Did I think it would have ended the way it did? Absolutely not. But that was just so fun, so well done Baku, can’t wait to go back. I hear it’s going to be colder, but hopefully not too cold. Maybe if we get some sunshine it will be another good year.
After Baku, we’re straight into the European season. Is that when you feel like you can get your teeth fully into the season?
Yeah. For people reading this, it’s not like we’re conserving ourselves for the first few races. You’re obviously trying as hard as you can, but by Europe the car starts to get more optimal aerodynamically. In a way it starts to become a better car to drive. You can start to really just know where the limit is and push that limit a bit more. That’s always exciting. And straight after Spain you’ve got Monaco. Monaco is crazy. I love that place.
Off-track, some more fun antics lined up with the team?
I don’t know, you tell me! Red Bull has always got us doing some crazy things. I’m sure we’ll do our fair share this year. I’m looking forward to experiencing new things, to traveling the world. It’s fun. Obviously fully focused with the racing but I’ll try to soak up as much as I can along the way.
Describe the Australian Grand Prix in one word?
Hectic. Or heckers!
What will your soundtrack to the season be?
Orgasmic. Oh wait, I thought it was a one-word answer! You want an actual song title! How about Waiting by The Kite String Tangle, because I have been waiting and hopefully by the end of this year, wait no more.
What will be your biggest frustration this year?
Not winning 21 races.
What will be the biggest positive?
Winning enough races that leads to having the choice of whether I want to run number one on my car next year.
What one thing will you do this year that you’ve never done before?
Hold the biggest trophy I’ve ever held. That’s the plan. And if that’s the case then I will do something very stupid, like… run a lap, with the whole crowd. Everyone just runs, probably in underwear, just the whole lap, running. That would be sick.
Where will you go that you’ve never been before?
I’ve got a trip planned. I’m going to go to Colorado and do some hiking and stuff. There’s also a music venue I’ve wanted to go to for years, Red Rocks amphitheatre in Colorado. That’s been on the hit list for a while and I’m getting it done this year.