Daniel Ricciardo: Tracks backwards

Got an F1 track you’d like to see driven the other way around? Daniel Ricciardo does.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU

It’s a chilly winter’s morning at Red Bull Racing’s HQ in Milton Keynes, and Daniel Ricciardo has enough interviews lined up to fill the next three hours. But questions on expectations for the season, the new RB12, his teammate Daniil Kvyat – for the moment, they can all wait. The topic du jour: which of the 21 circuits that feature on the 2016 Formula One calendar would he most like to drive in the opposite direction, safety considerations, practicality and common sense be damned? It’s an unusual conundrum he attacks with typical enthusiasm.

Told fellow Australian Jack Miller has weighed in with his own nominees from the 18 MotoGP circuits, a checklist emerges of what might work well on four wheels the wrong way around. Would his home track at Albert Park in Melbourne fit the bill in the opposite direction? What about Montreal, scene of his breakthrough first Grand Prix success in 2014, in reverse? The sweeps of Silverstone going the other way? Or the thrilling roller-coaster ride of the first sector at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin going mostly uphill instead of down?

More Tracks Backwards: Jack Miller

As it turns out, none of those four qualify. The quartet that would make the better driving? Old-school circuits with history, some with elevation change, and others with a signature corner that piques Ricciardo’s interest.

Before he’s even contemplated the question aloud, one circuit leaps into view – another track where he’s tasted the ultimate success. “Spa. Spa. Spa!,” he laughs, emphasising his affection for the famed Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes, where he won the Belgian Grand Prix in 2014.

The thought of Spa the wrong way around is mind-boggling. Blanchimont, the flat-out left-hander towards the end of the lap, at its start. Uphill through the fearsomely quick Pouhon corners at Turn 10 and 11. But it’s the thought of Spa’s signature turn – Eau Rouge – in reverse that has Ricciardo’s pulse racing.

“Downhill into Eau Rouge – that was the first thing I thought of,” he grins.

“Wow! I would like to do that …”.

Where else would be worth a try? The Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona features a super-fast and seemingly endless right-hander at Turn 3, and the mega-quick right at Turn 9 behind the pits. Ricciardo opts for the former. “Turn 3 at Barcelona – oh yeah, that would be pretty good,” he says.

Along with Spa, Suzuka in Japan is widely acclaimed as the best circuit of the tracks Formula One makes an annual visit to, its thin ribbon of tarmac snaking its way through the Japanese countryside and its figure-of-eight layout unique to F1. It’s an incredible track the right way around – what about the other way? Ricciardo muses over sector one, the uphill slalom of five bends that link together to form the esses. Awesome as it is, but downhill? “Suzuka – the esses the wrong way around – coming down the hill … that would be cool, I’d like that,” he says.

Where else? Monaco comes to mind. It’s a circuit where – the right way around – Ricciardo holds the lap record with his 1min 18.063sec scorcher on lap 74 of last year’s 78-lap race as he hunted down a podium finish that would eventually elude him. It would almost be sacrilegious to drive the Monte Carlo streets in the opposite direction, but it won’t stop Ricciardo considering it, piecing the corners together one by one in reverse in a whisper until he comes to a section he likes.

“Monaco … it would be feasible, but I’m not sure if would be as fun as it is now,” he eventually determines.

“That said, downhill into what is the normal turn one, if that was the last corner … that would be pretty ballsy.

“If you did it the wrong way around, the rest would probably be a slower track, but turn one would be fun.”

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