Q&A with Daniel Ricciardo
"I’m here to have fun"
A former member of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 Series line-up, Daniel Ricciardo made the switch straight from World Series by Renault to Formula One in 2011. The Australian is back in the WSR fold this weekend, however, taking part in the Infiniti Red Bull Racing F1 Show at Motorland Aragon.
You’ve made your return to World Series by Renault, albeit in very different circumstances. Are you in a different frame of mind too?
I had different ambitions in the past. I was out there to win races. Today I’m just here for the fun, to bring pleasure to the fans who’ve come to see an F1 car close up. I’m signing autographs and I’m trying to make myself available for everyone.
Which means to say that Formula One drivers only work on Grands Prix weekends, right?
No way. I’d even go as far as to say that the Grands Prix are the easiest part of my job. We do a lot of travelling and take part in a whole bunch of events. There are also aerodynamic tests to do, films to shoot for the team and sponsors and stuff like that. But I’m where I always wanted to be. I’d pay to be a racing driver, so I can’t complain.
You made your way into Formula One via the driver development programmes set up by Renault Sport and Red Bull. Is that the best way to reach the highest level?
It was for me, and I think my team-mate Jean-Eric [Vergne] would say the same thing. There are quite a few of us who’ve got into Formula 1 thanks to these programmes. The cars are getting more and like the F1 cars and that makes the training process very relevant indeed. Everything’s like F1, including the lap times and technologies like DRS. If you can be a winner in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, then you’ve got the potential to drive an F1 car. There’s no question about that.
Do you follow the World Series by Renault races?
I try to watch as many races as I can and I always look out for the results. It’s interesting to find out about the drivers who are knocking on the door of F1, just to see who my future rivals are going to be. And when I see them on the grid, I’ll know who they are.
Do you watch any other motorsports?
I like all of them, especially Moto GP and NASCAR. I watch all the races. I follow Supercross too and keep an eye out for my fellow Australian Chad Reed’s results. I watch V8 Supercars too. In fact there are a lot of events I could name. If I’m at home and I’ve finished my training for the day, I’ll try and sit down and watch some motorsports on TV.
And what about other sports?
I like all sports really. I watch football, Australian Rules football, rugby, cricket, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and all the extreme sports. I love sport in general. I like playing it and I like following competitions too.
Let’s imagine you’re on the grid this afternoon. What position would you start in?
(Pause) 17th! (laughs). I’m sure it wouldn’t be easy though, because there are a lot of good drivers around. Just because you’re an F1 driver you can’t go and think that you’d get pole positions every time in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. I’d love to start on the front row though.
Who would be your biggest rivals?
After watching yesterday’s race I’d say Kevin Magnussen. He was very impressive. But there are quite a few other promising drivers who are capable of winning. I’d put Da Costa and Vandoorne up there with Magnussen, to name but a few.
And if you were on the grid in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 race?
If I was at the wheel, it would be very different. The car handles nothing like the one I’ve been in today. With the downforce you get in an F1 or Formula Renault 3.5 car, the steering is a lot heavier and it responds differently. If I was racing in a Formula Renault 2.0, I think I’d be sliding around all the time. I wouldn’t be very quick.
Have you kept in touch with your old team managers?
We sometimes bump into each other, like we’ve done this weekend, and we always stop and have a chat. I saw Simon and Sarah from Tech 1 Racing yesterday and the members of the Carlin and ISR teams. I’ve even seen some of the people I’ve worked on testing sessions with, like Richard Dutton at Fortec Motorsports. It’s nice to catch up with each other and see everyone again. Everyone’s very friendly and the atmosphere’s always great.