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Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo: I have not got fat

Daniel Ricciardo

It was a painful Renault debut for Daniel Ricciardo at the Australian Grand Prix – in more ways than one, as the Aussie star received a sobering reality check when he was fourth-last in the 20-strong field in opening practice in Melbourne.

While the ex-Red Bull star bounced back to finish eighth fastest in the second 90-minute session on Friday, it was still not without discomfort.

Ricciardo had a delayed start to the second session due to an issue with the “gentleman area” of his seat in his Renault cockpit.

An engineer was seen hammering the seat to bash it into shape before Ricciardo finally got on track. Renault development driver Jack Aitken revealed the eye-watering problem to TV reporters.

“Yeah, something around the gentleman area,” he told Sky Sports, prompting giggles from commentators. “They might have had to make some adjustments.”

Ricciardo reported at the end of the day, “It was a bit frustrating. We wanted to go out. Frustrating for the mechanics as well. The belts, the measurements were not adding up.”

“I have not got fat. I have not been eating too much this week – I have been too busy to be eating. It was a bit of a time delay, but I could tell that everyone was getting a bit frustrated.”

“It was good to get the first day done. It’s been a busy week with a big build-up so to get Friday practice completed is nice. We had some consistent running in FP2 and I was certainly growing more comfortable on each run.”

“We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we’re getting there. For me, it’s about developing the understanding of the car and we’ve made a good start on that today. Qualifying will be interesting tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

The big smiling Aussie had already been seeing red before a vehicle had taken to the track at the Formula 1 season opener.

He lost his trademark grin when reports emerged claiming Renault lured him away from Red Bull with a two-season deal worth $30-million per year, which makes him the third highest paid Formula 1 driver behind only Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who have nine world titles between them.

It would also reportedly make Ricciardo Australia’s richest current sport star, for the record he denied the lucrative wage, “That kind of bums me out because a lot of people reading that will believe it.”

Ricciardo had also played down his podium chances this year but still would have been disappointed with his opening practice effort, finishing 17th fastest.

His teammate Nico Hulkenberg spent most of the session in the garage with electrical issues but still finished 10th fastest.

In the second session, Ricciardo gave his rabid fans something to smile about but still could not reel in Hulkenberg, who was seventh quickest.

Ricciardo managed to turn heads before he had even got into what was later revealed to be an awkward race seat.

He unveiled his new-look helmet emblazoned with a curious motto “Stop Being Them” in an interesting blend of pink, green, blue and black.

“I’m not sure how much he paid for that. I hope it wasn’t much,” former Australian Formula 1 star Mark Webber said.

Big Question: Will Daniel’s gamble pay off?