In conversation with … Daniel Ricciardo

Together with Tony Schibeci from the ‘On the Grid’ show on Melbourne radio station 1116 SEN, I spoke with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo about the recent F1 Young Drivers Test at Silverstone, how he’s turned his 2013 season around, and when he expects to know if he’ll be replacing Mark Weber at Red Bull Racing for next season. Here’s some of what Ricciardo had to say.

You’ve often mentioned that you typically get very little information from Red Bull about what they want you to do and when until just before it happens. Did that happen with your recent Silverstone test?

Daniel Ricciardo: “I got notice the weekend before, so probably four days before. So not much notice, but it was all good. Since I’ve been with Red Bull, a few, let’s say spontaneous, things have happened or come up, so I’m used to the short-notice things now. That wasn’t really an issue, more a bit of excitement.

The weather (for the Young Drivers Test) at Silverstone was great and I got to compare the two cars, jump in and out of one and the other. It was a bit of an assessment for those guys, for them to have a look and see how I went. Some say ‘how was it dealing with the pressure?’ and all of that, but I just saw it as something fun, getting to drive two pretty cool cars and drive them as fast as I could. So that was a bit of fun, and I didn’t let the pressure get too much. I had a bit of an off (in the gravel), but that was just pushing and trying to get the most of it. I definitely wouldn’t put that down to nerves, I was probably overdriving if anything.”

What were the differences between the two cars, and were you surprised to not see your teammate Jean-Eric Vergne get a drive in the Red Bull as well?

DR: “They are different beasts. The Red Bull doesn’t really need an introduction; it’s known to be for the last few years one of the quickest cars on the grid, and very good in the downforce department. In terms of under braking and through the high-speed corners, the car is pretty impressive – not glued to the track, but close enough, and definitely up there with the better of the F1 cars these days. That’s where you really feel (the difference), mainly braking and the speed you can carry through the high-speed stuff. In terms of power, it was pretty transparent to me. The engines sound a bit different from the cockpit – the Ferrari is a little bit more high-revving, while the Renault is a bit more of a deeper noise.

With the teammate thing … I guess when they told me I was having a go, that’s all I was really worried about. I was pretty excited it was me.”

Have you been given any indication yet on a timeframe for the decision of who replaces Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing and when you might know more?

DR: “I get the impression that they want to make the decision sooner rather than later, so maybe even during the (mid-season) break or soon after, maybe in the second part of the season. I don’t think we’ll have to wait until November and the end of the season to know. For me, it’s to try to get the most out of the car I’m driving now and try to out-do my teammate – that’s all I can do. It’s up to (Red Bull) to assess if that’s enough or not.”

You’ve mentioned that you’d taken some time out to re-assess your approach after the Canadian Grand Prix and re-think the way you go about things. What have you changed and why has that worked?

DR: “We were probably trying to do too much with myself and my engineers. We always seemed to be staying at the track … we were pretty much the last ones there, and maybe we were trying to over-analyse a few things. The work we were doing, we could have done it differently. My teammate would leave the circuit two hours before me and still finish ahead of me the next day, so the extra work I was putting in wasn’t really productive. There were just a few signs that made me think ‘OK, I need to try to do something a bit different here’. The whole approach away from the technical stuff was the same, the training, the fitness and the mental side of things was fine – it was more a technical thing with my engineers that we could have tried to have done better. We spoke quite a bit and took probably more of a simple approach for the next few races, and a decisive approach in terms of changing the car and what to do. We didn’t ponder too much and it seems to have helped us a little bit.”

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