Daniel Ricciardo parts ways with Red Bull to begin a new Formula 1 adventure with Renault in 2019, thus ends a massive chapter in the Australian’s life which he recalls with fondness while adamant that his move was not only about very big bucks, but rather a chance to win the title… in 2021.
Asked to analyse his season during an interview with AS correspondent Manuel Franco, Ricciardo began, “Confused, we could say. Confused because it is difficult to analyse. The truth is that I started very strong and then somehow I started to get worse. I still do not know why this has happened, as far as I’m concerned personally, I did not change anything since Monaco.”
“Maybe I went partying a few days after that… Joke! But I did not do anything different since then, however, it really hasn’t worked out the way I thought it might. I tried to understand it, I tried to be better, but it was very strange, a season of two halves. But I won’t remember it in a very negative way. Monaco will continue to be a huge achievement for me, so I would happily repeat the season just for that.
Ricciardo’s long association with Red Bull ends when the lights switch off at Yas Marina Circuit at the end of the season. It would be fair to say, top this point, the energy drinks brought him through the ranks, gave him his break in the top flight and he delivered big time.
Reflecting on his years with the team, Ricciardo said, “It’s been fun, that’s for sure. An important part of my career, they gave me the opportunity once I arrived in Europe, took me to this place I am in right now…”
“We helped each other, but they, for sure, helped me more and gave me the opportunity to compete with the best equipment at the highest level. I paid them with results, but they created that platform for me. It has been incredible.”
Daniel: Red Bull gave me the opportunity to be in F1 and I started learning immediately, and that was important
“And then there are other fun things, I’ve also had some good off-piste experiences, playing ice hockey, soccer, motocross, flying in helicopters, aeroplanes… It’s been fun and I do not know how long I’ll continue as a driver but I know I’ll look back and I’ll think about Red Bull and me, together, and that will always be the most important part of my career.
Red Bull funded Ricciardo’s debut with back of the grid strugglers HRT, but the half season proved invaluable and despite running out of the spotlight he did enough to convince his Red Bull backers to promote him to Toro Rosso and the rest is now history.
The Australian recalled his early F1 years, “That was a long time ago but even that was interesting, sure the team was not fast, but Red Bull gave me the opportunity to be in F1 and I started learning immediately, and that was important.
During the summer break, he shocked the Formula 1 world by announcing he would depart Red Bull to spearhead Renault’s F1 effort on a two-year deal. A huge gamble? A big mistake? Any regrets? Objectives?
“I think several things,” continued Ricciardo, “As a team, have the best possible result. I do not know what is his best moment in recent years, but if it is the sixth, I want to finish fifth, for example.”
“I also want to prove to myself and other people that it was the right decision, I guess that proving that some people are wrong would be good. And of course grow with the team and feel the progress, be part of that and feel that your investment in me will have been worth it.”
As for a timeline, “Five years ago! (laughs) I mean, in 2014 I think I drove well enough to be world champion that year. So for me that’s past, but now, starting this next journey, realistically, I would say I would like to be world champion in 2021.
Ricciardo’s quick and big smile is his trademark, but when the visor is down the Honey Badger is a ruthless prize-fighter second to few, so what’s the secret?
Daniel: At 50 I hope I’m not too fat! But I’d like to have children someday, for sure
“I think my secret is perspective,” mused the 29-year-old. “Perspective, many people forget the important things. What is a bad day? For me, it may be finishing in fifth place. But a bad day for someone else is being fired, or he could be shot in the war or on the street.”
“It’s the perspective. A bad day for me is the best day for someone else. I think this is very important to understand the perspective. Naturally, I am a competitor and I will never be happy with the fifth, but it’s fine, it’s not really a bad day, maybe a bad time, but not a bad day.”
“I will wake up in spite of everything in a nice hotel room somewhere, and I will enjoy being happy. I do not like to be sad, I like to have a good time, so a part of me is determined to find that perspective because I do not want to be sad.”
Daniel at 50? “I hope I’m not too fat (laughs) but I’d like to have children someday, for sure. Children would be great, I could play sports with them. I would like to have succeeded in something else by the time I am 50 years old. When I retire, I would like to create something else and have another passion to last another 20 years but I don’t know what.”
And real happiness for the Perth native, “The sun… a sunny day. If the weather is good, I’m happy. The other day it was cold where I came from, I arrived in Mexico and when we landed I left the airport and it was hot. I took off my sweater and immediately I felt happy. So yes, that, the sun!”
Ricciardo’s final appearance for in blue will be at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, also the occasion of his 99th race for the Red Bull senior team in the top flight.