Note this report was published before Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from second place in the Australian Grand Prix – see report here>>>
A dream start to his Red Bull career is an understatement for Daniel Ricciardo as he turned around a horrid pre-season, for the world champions, and delivered an outstanding result by taking second place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix – on home soil – it does not get much better than that – and with it he bagged his first Formula 1 podium. With an ever present smile he answered questions at the end of his memorable afternoon in Melbourne.
You were thinking you may not even finish, let alone be on the podium…
Daniel Ricciardo: Yeah. Two or three weeks ago I would have bet everything I have that we would not be standing up here. Full credit to the team for an unbelievable turnaround. I don’t understand how they did it but they did, so thank you guys. And, of course, the Aussie fans. Wow, completely overwhelming. No words. I’m trippin’ balls right now.
There’s a bloke up in Noosa that’ll be very happy too.
DR: Yeah I thought I’d do a stack just to commemorate Mark as well. It’s an Aussie thing, but yeah, really pleased to be up here. First Aussie on the Aussie podium, so that’s really nice to have. Thanks everyone.
You said on the podium, what a turn around – does this exceed your wildest expectations of your first race with Red Bull?
DR: Definitely. If I look back at where we were three weeks ago – or however long ago it was, definitely. We’ve never done a race distance up until today, so we didn’t really have much confidence we’d see a chequered flag, let alone see it in a podium position. Obviously, as Nico said with his team, the same for ours. They really worked hard over the winter and really clawed back a massive margin. Obviously we still don’t have the pace of the Mercedes but it’s a result that we will definitely take today and we can make a lot of progress from here. So, pretty happy. It’s a bit overwhelming for now but an unbelievable day.
I think we could ‘hear’ your smile over the team radio at the end there but talk about the support from this Australian crowd here today – and the whole weekend.
DR: Yeah, it’s been a lot. It’s been a crazy amount. The support for Formula One in general. They’ve been really behind this event and always when the drivers rock up at the circuit, everyone’s cheering for everyone and wanting autographs. Obviously there’s been a bit more for me, being the only Aussie on the grid this year and that’s just been more than I could have possibly expected. At times a bit embarrassing. Everyone knows who I am now – but it’s cool. Very positive.
Naturally you’ve always believed you could do this, but now you’ve done it, you’ve got the podium, you’ve run at the front. Tell us how this gives you confidence and momentum going into the championship and running at the front for the rest of the year?
DR: Yeah. A lot, I guess. Yeah. It’s nice to be up here. Even yesterday during the post-qualifying press conference, that was already a nice little boost, to be up in that top three and now to be here. It’s strange, because I guess it’s expected to see Nico up here but to have Kevin as well, feels like we’re back in World Series by Renault or something. So it’s a bit surreal still, but I’m sure tomorrow it will all sink in. Yeah, a lot of confidence, I’m really happy with how the whole weekend has gone. Dry and wet conditions, showed a lot of confidence and some good pace. Obviously I’ve got to continue this now but the team has to be pleased with what they’re seeing at the moment.
In a weekend where the AFL season started in Melbourne, you still managed to outshine it – perhaps our international guests don’t appreciate how huge that really is but we do. What does that mean to you to essentially become Australian sporting royalty?
DR: Obviously there’s been a lot of support for me this week but the support everyone has shown for Formula One, it’s made headlines every day in the papers, I think. As I said, the crowd was amazing, not only for me but for every other driver this week, they’ve showed incredible enthusiasm for the event and if there’s any doubts that the Oz Grand Prix won’t last, I think they definitely put a stamp on that this year and I’m sure it will keep kicking for a while now, so really pleased to be a part of that.
You hadn’t done too many practice starts before this weekend.
DR: No, not too many. Yeah, it wasn’t perfect but I think probably Nico was the only guy that had a good start from what I saw today and the rest were pretty average but definitely upshifting through the gears with the torque we have with the V6 turbos this year, it is a bit more difficult to manage the wheelspin but as we saw, I don’t think everyone really has it right yet. We managed to do a sufficient enough job today but there’s still a lot of progress to make with launches.
How difficult was it to manage the fuel during the race? Was it easy?
DR: Yeah, I think at the start of the race it was a bit of guessing. Some laps I would try and push and not really conserve and then when I felt I had enough gap then I would start conserving. We were basically learning all the time today. First time that we’ve done a race distance so I think we’ll take a lot out of it but in the end I think the system we have to reach the fuel target is not bad, considering we haven’t done too much work on that yet. I think we survived quite well.
Already today you have achieved what Mark Webber couldn’t, finish on the podium in his home Grand Prix. You’re going to be the new face of Australian motor sport in the papers today, in the news tonight. How does that make you feel?
DR: I don’t know. Obviously really nice but even when I flew into Melbourne this week, it was a bit embarrassing to see my face on a few billboards. I don’t know. It’s obviously nice, all the support is great but I don’t know. The fame is something which I guess maybe I will still have to get used to but it’s nice, really nice to give the fans what they wanted to see. I know they went crazy yesterday when we nearly got the pole and then to back it up with a podium today is great. I think half of Perth is here as well this weekend. I told all my family to stay away from the pits, didn’t need any extra distractions but I’m sure I will catch up with them tonight and enjoy a beer and relax a little bit before Malaysia.
How much of that gap to Nico do you think can be closed just from some consistent running that you’ve got now?
DR: I think it will definitely get smaller and hopefully not bigger over time. I think there’s still a lot to learn today and once it all settles down and I go through the meeting with the engineers tonight I will start to… Now I’m obviously on a high but then I’ll start to break it all down and become critical and places where we can improve. I’ll definitely try and help the guys out with that. Obviously I would like the gap closed. He was pretty far away in front today and obviously second is great but it would be nice to at least have seen him on the straight, and not five corners ahead.
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