Driver diary

The Dan Diaries: I’m asking the questions …

In his latest exclusive driver column, Daniel Ricciardo talks dollars, being mistaken for famous Hollywood celebrities, and what secret skill he wishes he had.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

We’re going to get a bit left-field with the old Diary this time. Change things up a bit. There’s a reason for it, I swear …

We spend so much of our time in F1 answering questions – from media (they often ask the same ones 37 different ways!) and the fans, so it’s time we flipped the script here. Time for a takeover!

I’ve come up with 20 questions to ask … myself. Some of them I get asked a fair bit. Some I’ve never been asked until now! Some of them get a bit off-topic. You’ll learn some things. I know I did … In no particular order and for no particular reason, here we go.

What happens to all of your trophies when you finish on the podium?

Excellent question! My Red Bull contract means I get replicas. Which means they’re real replicas, but the team keeps the ones on the podium. I’ve had 27 podiums, so they’re scattered around a bit. Some are at home in Monaco, some I got shipped back to Australia, so they’re a bit spread out.

How did your driver helmet collection start, and whose helmets do you own?

First one was with Fernando (Alonso), when he was still at Ferrari. It was at the end of 2014 in Abu Dhabi when he asked me to swap, which was pretty sweet. It kind of built from here. How many … not sure of the exact number. Let’s just say a few, and hopefully I’ll add a few more.

How does a Formula One driver get paid? Weekly, monthly, in advance, in arrears? Do you get bonuses and incentives?

Most of us in F1 have the similar structure of a base retainer – so no matter how bad the season is, there’s a figure – and then there’s podium bonuses, bonuses for poles, points and things like that. We’re all pretty much the same, it’s just that the numbers would be different for some of us! We know the minimum we’ll make but not the maximum. There’d be a bit extra for a world championship too. No wonder those guys look pretty happy …

What’s the best alias you’ve used to check into a hotel (and will now never use again!)

Simon Hectic. No, really. True story. My mates and I, when we were younger, we used to prank-call people and we’d use all of these stupid names, and that was one of them. No idea why. Simon Hectic has got a run when there’s someone waiting at an airport to pick me up or something like that.

What’s the most random famous person you’ve been mistaken for?

I got Adam Sandler once! Seriously. ‘Screech’ from that TV show ‘Saved By The Bell’, that was another one. And in F1, I used to get Sebastien Buemi all the time. When he was at Toro Rosso and I was a reserve quite a few years ago, people would give me photos of him to sign all the time …

Have you ever used ‘don’t you know who I am?’ to get something you wanted?

I haven’t … but some of my mates have, like ‘don’t you know who he is?’ I wouldn’t have the nerve to do it … but people have done it for me.

You do so many flights per year. How did you survive them: music, reading, movies, sleeping, what?

I actually used to count my flights, ‘it’s flight 109 for the season this week’, that sort of thing. Not so much anymore. I’m not a massive sleeper on planes, so it’s mostly music, of course, and then lots of movies on the long flights. I actually look forward to that because I’d never see them otherwise. And your phone is off. No texts, no emails. I actually like it …

Who organises your travel schedule, and how do you keep track of it all?

It’s a mix. Partly me, partly my PA that I have back in Monaco, Viola, and then Red Bull’s logistics department. There’s something weirdly satisfying about sitting down at the start of the year and planning the whole year in one go, with some flexibility for things that come up of course. Getting it all mapped out is a bit of a relief too, having, say, 80 per cent of it sorted takes the stress out.

Off the track, do you prefer to be the driver or a passenger when there’s more than you in the car?

On a race weekend, my trainers Stu or Sam, whoever is with me, they’ll drive into the circuit. A lot of F1 drivers are bad passengers, but as long as I have the music to control, then that’s good enough for me.

What are you thinking about in the post-race press conferences when other drivers are speaking in their native languages?

Most of the time, not a lot – there’s usually a bit of daydreaming going on! Drinking water if we’ve had a hot race. If there’s someone speaking, say, Finnish and I have no idea what’s being said, then the daydreaming starts!

Red Bull always come up with some different ways of promoting the brand – what’s the most fun activity you’ve done over the years?

Last year we did some motocross in the desert in Abu Dhabi which was pretty cool, that’s something I’d done before so that was really fun. And the caravan race Max (Verstappen) and I did around the Red Bull Ring earlier this year was hilarious. Both of us were just losing it laughing. We might have got a bit off-script that day …

Tell us something (within reason) about two of your F1 teammates so far that people might not know?

Seb (Sebastian Vettel) is quite superstitious. He has a lucky charm that he wears in his suit or in his boots, I can’t completely remember. Max … this is pretty funny. In the Sunday morning strategy meetings, he sits with his head down towards the table. If you didn’t know better you’d swear he was sleeping! You 100 per cent know he’s taking it all in and listening to everything, it just looks like he’s not!

If you could play any other sport professionally for a living, what would you want it to be?

Tennis, for sure. I’ve always enjoyed that one-on-one nature of it, and there’s no bullshit in terms of the best guy wins the match. There’s no blaming your racquet, your shoes, none of that. I love how there’s a big playing arena compared to how little space the players take up in it, there’s no helmets or armour, every facial expression is for the spectators to see. And I like how there can be such massive momentum swings and how that momentum can shift so quickly. It’d be amazing to have that level of talent to deliver under that much pressure.

Do you have a secret skill, and if so, what is it?

I’ve never tried a unicycle, so that’s out. Let’s say I can catch really well. Good eyes and good reflexes! Not very glamorous. But I’ll back myself to catch anything.

If there was one skill you could have that you don’t, what would it be?

Singing or playing an instrument, it’s not even close. People who can play four different instruments and still sing, I’m like ‘damn you’ … Imagine being able to rock up to, say, a piano and be able to play whatever you wanted? That’d be cool.

How often do up-and-coming drivers ask for advice, and is that something that sits well with you?

I recognise I’m in that position a little bit more now, I’m not the young rookie coming in guns blazing any more. So it does happen sometimes, and I’m good with that. The guns are still blazing, don’t worry, it’s just that there’s some more depth to me now. I acknowledge that’s a bit more my position in the sport and motorsport generally now, to be a role model or perhaps give people some advice. The wise old bloke …

What’s the best and/or worst investment in something that someone has asked you to make?

You get some good ones, for sure. You’d be amazed at how many people come completely out of the woodwork and say ‘hey, you should stick your money into this’ when you’ve never met them before. Because there’s an app for everything these days, you’ll get a lot of approaches to invest in those – and you realise some of the best ideas already exist … The best ones for us drivers are things like real estate – because it’s safe and strong – and because of what we do, cars.

What’s your off-season binge food favourite when you can let loose?

A massive juicy greasy hamburger. Massive. It has to be a good hamburger, it just doesn’t have to be a very healthy one. One that’s massive and half of it falls out and runs down your forearms as you’re eating it. You need a bath afterwards. Nice.

What podium have you never stood on yet that you’re most keen to?

Suzuka, that’s finally ticked off now. I’ve physically stood on the Australian one (2014) even though I didn’t get to keep the second place, so I won’t say that. Mexico would be pretty cool, and I technically did get to stand on it last year, but that was hours after the race and when pretty much everyone had gone home! So I’ll say Monza, just for that atmosphere.

What’s the best thing about going back to Australia – weather, accents, open space, what?

There’s so many … Bottle shops and pre-mixes is a random one. Cracking a can open and knowing you don’t have to mix it! So, so Australian. And good Aussie bakeries, where you roll in and get your pepper steak pie and that sort of thing, that’s Australia. Bakeries remind me of heading down south or up north in WA to go on holidays, so there’s a nostalgic part of it too. You definitely get more aware of that sort of thing as you get older.

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The Dan Diaries: Flying solo

Daniel Ricciardo writes about why coaching has little place in F1, where to draw the line on routines, and why the omens are good for Singapore this Sunday.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

September in Australia means footy finals – no matter what type of footy is your footy – and for me, last Saturday afternoon at home in Monaco was spent getting my heart rate up watching my West Coast Eagles in their AFL elimination final against Port Adelaide. It had everything – extra time, crazy momentum shifts, and a match-winning goal after the final siren (for the good guys, naturally). Awesome. But something I noticed after the game as the players were going nuts and all the team’s support staff spilled onto the field was just how many coaches an AFL team has, and the same applies for most other types of team sports.

Compare that to what I do? Us drivers have personal trainers who help to shape our bodies (and sometimes our minds) to get us ready, and my long-time trainer Stu Smith has had as much (if not more) impact on my career than anyone. But as far as coaching for actual driving goes, there’s nothing. It’s on you. To anyone on the outside, it must seem odd to think that you get to the main motorsport category in the world and you’re mostly on your own, but that’s the way it is – and the way it has to be.

When I first came to Europe to race, I went to a few driver coach days and had some more experienced people than I was teach you some techniques and some approaches to things. I figured that was what you were supposed to do. But the further I got into my career and especially once I got to F1, I realised I had to learn things for myself. I’m the one in the car and things change every year – different rules, different tyres, different teams – so it’s hard for anyone to advise you, you’re the one in the hot seat. So you’re faced with a choice – commit, invest the time and learn for yourself, or you’ll probably soon be an ex-F1 driver.

F1’s a unique sport in that if you’re, say, a tennis player, you can go and practice serving or returning or whatever as you try to work on your game. As an F1 driver, we get very limited test days and simulator time, and it’s not like you can go and “practice” F1 away from race weekends, is it? So how do you get better as an F1 driver?

Data and dissecting it – and then learning not to over-do it – has been a big thing for me. You’ll always take, say, your best lap and compare that to your teammate’s best lap – I was quicker here, he was quicker there – but I don’t think many people want to do a longer dissection and look at, say, 20 random laps in the race. Who was better on older tyres and why? Is your teammate coming off the brakes earlier than you at a certain corner? Which of you is keeping the rear tyres cooler and why? What can your engineer identify for you from looking at the data and give you something to work on? There’s always something to learn, and that’s a part of being an F1 driver that I’ve always enjoyed.

The trick when you’re a younger driver is working out how much analysis is enough. Because I was interested in those early F1 years, looking back at it now, I did a lot of poring over the numbers, probably too much. There was a bit of paralysis by analysis for me early on, and I needed to scale back or I was just going to send myself around in circles looking for tenths of a second that might not be there. I just thought that was what you needed to do to be an F1 driver, and if going over data meant two hours’ less sleep, that’s what I did. You learn over time that more isn’t always better, and as you gain trust in your engineer – and that takes time – they can help you narrow things down, and that’s what Simon (Rennie) does for me.

Developing a routine – and one that has some flexibility in it – is massive for us too when you consider the travel that we do, the time zone changes and all of that. Working out what works for you takes time, but it’s time you have to spend. Looking back again to when I first came to Europe, I didn’t really have an eating or training routine that I followed, and it showed. By my second year, I began to learn what I needed to do away from the car to get me in the best place to operate my best, and then the year before my first full year of F1, 2010, I realised what sleep did for my performances, and became very aware of my sleep patterns, sleep quality and hours as I built up to a race weekend. By my second year of F1, I was much more aware of how to manage my energy and be ready to peak at the right times.

The trick with a routine, at least for me, is not to get so caught up in the order of things or when things have to happen that you get knocked off-balance when strange things happen, like weather delaying qualifying for hours like in Italy in the last race (when I grabbed a camera for a bit!), or somewhere like Melbourne when things are pretty hectic for me and there’s always a last-minute request to do this or that. If I had a set routine that had to be followed to the letter, I’d never get through that Australian weekend because of how busy it is. More strict routines work for some top-line sportspeople – look at Valentino Rossi’s rituals as he leaves the pits on his bike, or the way Rafael Nadal prepares to serve or what he does when he rests between games. But just because a rigid routine works for them, it doesn’t make it right for you. Mine is less strict than that, but I do have a checklist of things I like to do to get me completely at my peak for the most important part of the weekend, Sunday afternoon.

I mentioned Rossi and Nadal and their routines, and while F1 and what we do is so unique, I love looking at other sports and other athletes to see what they do to prepare and whether that can translate, can maybe help me in some way. I’ve probably learned more from other sports than my own, to be honest. Seeing how other athletes perform in the moment and trying to find out why, or how they prepare – I can’t get enough of that sort of thing. You don’t want to get too specific with it because some of it might not apply to your sport, but you can learn so much from watching and listening, and I think that’s why I’m such a sports enthusiast generally, there’s always something you can take away from someone else’s approach.

Other than watch footy last weekend, it was time to think about packing my life into a bag and being on the road for the rest of the year. The last seven races of the season are all outside of Europe, and the main focus after Monza was to ramp up the training and get some work done in the heat for the next two races in Singapore this weekend and then Malaysia two weeks after that. There’s no sugar-coating it, these two are just brutally hard, and I’ve tried to smash myself a bit with the training over the last week but keep myself fresh enough so I’m ready for Sunday in Singapore. You need to be in proper nick for these two.

For the team, Singapore is obviously one we’ve had our sights on for a while, and while it won’t be the only other race we have a chance at winning this year – who would have thought I’d have won at Baku with the characteristics of that track? – Singapore is one race where we have a great chance.

It’s good to head there off the back of a couple of pretty good races, including the podium at Spa which we didn’t expect. That safety car for the Force India boys crashing into each other was handy, for sure. We had a new set of ultrasoft tyres, and I was pretty surprised Mercedes went to the soft tyres, particularly with Valtteri Bottas ahead of me. Fourth would have been good, but the podium was there to be taken, and I had to have a go. I had Kimi (Raikkonen) hovering behind me ready to attack, so the best way for me to defend from him was to attack Bottas, and I had one shot at it after the re-start and nailed it. Pretty sweet.

It would have been awesome to get onto the podium again at Monza too – that’s one podium I’ve still not been on and one I want because that has to be the best podium in all of F1 – but in the end I ran out of laps to get to Seb (Sebastian Vettel) after starting down near the back because of penalties. It’ll happen one day.

That was a fun race and there was plenty of overtakes, everyone saw the one with Kimi and the one with (Sergio) Perez at the second chicane. I’d also managed to pass (Kevin) Magnussen at the same chicane with the same move earlier in the race, but I don’t think it made the TV broadcast. So, a shame to not be on that awesome podium, but good to string a couple of good ones together after coming back from the break.

Hopefully we can make it three this weekend. Singapore has been good to me the last three years – third, second, and second again (and fastest lap) last year, so there’s only one step to go from there …

The Dan Diaries: Crazy good, crazy bad

Daniel Ricciardo writes about a post-win celebration that wasn’t, marvels at Valentino Rossi, and weighs in on Hamilton v Vettel in Baku.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Things I didn’t expect to do at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? Win it. If I’d have thought I was a chance of a victory, I would have planned something better than what happened afterwards. As celebrations go, it wasn’t particularly high up there – but I couldn’t help it.

I finished the race, did the podium, walked into about two hours of media, then went straight to the charter flight with the team that had been waiting for me to finally stop talking. We took off, straight back to England, and I was checking in where we stay at Milton Keynes near the factory around 2am Monday morning, which was probably 5am Baku time. Tried to get some sleep, mostly failed because my mind was still ticking over thinking about the day, and then I was at the factory at 9am in the simulator for a 10-hour day. This F1 thing is pretty glamorous, don’t you think? Saying that, if someone was to say ‘you can win this weekend, but you still have to do simulator on Monday’, sign me up. Every time.

It’s been a week or so since Azerbaijan, but I’m struggling to remember any race I’ve done that was as crazy as Baku was. It got to the point where we’d done that many re-starts and that much had happened – every two laps it seemed like my race engineer Simon (Rennie) was on the radio telling me something had happened to someone else – that anything seemed possible. When I got up to third and Lewis (Hamilton) and Seb (Vettel) were in front, I was anticipating a penalty for Seb for what happened with Lewis – don’t worry, I’ll get to that – so I figured second would be great. Then Simon tells me Lewis has a loose headrest, of all things, and has to pit. You seriously couldn’t make it up. And there I am in first.

I was pretty stoked that I was leading, but there was half the race to go, and you figure that everyone else has been having dramas, so my next one can’t be far off. I’d had to pit earlier than I wanted because of the debris I picked up from (Kimi) Raikkonen’s front wing early on that sent the brake temps through the roof, but surely something else was going to happen, wasn’t it? But it didn’t, and after all that, I’d won my fifth Grand Prix. When they crossed to me in the car on the slow-down lap, I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, what was I supposed to say after that? Even if I’d finished fifth, I would have come out of that one with a massive smile on my face.

Everyone wanted to talk and re-watch the pass I did to get up to third after the re-start when I got past the two Williams boys, and it was definitely one I enjoyed, and one that set the win up for me in the end. The funny part about it was that I’d actually discussed doing it before it happened. We were in the red flag period and I said to my trainer Stu (Smith) that I thought third might be on at turn one at the re-start, and he didn’t disagree. I guess I was committed to going for it even before I got back in the car! Definitely a sweet one to pull off, and at the time I thought that might have set up third for me, so I was stoked with that. It got better though …

What’s weird is that I’ve won five races now, but haven’t qualified well for any of them – I was 10th in Baku after stuffing up qualifying and sticking the car in the wall, and all five of them have been from outside the top three on the grid. Maybe qualifying is over-rated? But in all seriousness, in all five of those races, something has happened where a chance to get up there has presented itself, and I’m not going to let that go if it happens. It’d be nice to know what it must be like to qualify on pole and then disappear and win by 20 seconds, but all of them have been about seizing an opportunity. The races that I’ve won have all been exciting races, and when I got the call to box about five laps in or so, I thought I was done and I’d probably be retiring, a bit like I did in Russia when the brakes were on fire. Definitely thought it would be a DNF.

The big talking point out of the race was the incident with Lewis and Seb – told you I’d come back to that – and everyone seems to have an opinion about it. So here’s mine. There’s a view going around that Seb got off lightly with the penalty he got, but to me, that’s only because he ended up beating Lewis, and that only happened because Lewis had his own issues with the headrest. If that hadn’t happened and Lewis won, which he looked like was going to, and Seb was, say, fifth or something, then there wouldn’t be as much noise about it. For me, a 10-second stop-go penalty, the one Seb got, is the biggest penalty you can have without being black-flagged. There’s no bigger time penalty because you lose 20 seconds in the pits, and then you have to be stationary for 10 seconds. A light penalty in my view would have been if the stewards had added 10 seconds to his race time at the end, and I would have agreed that a penalty like that wouldn’t have been enough. But I thought what they did was fine, and I don’t think what he did was enough to be disqualified. So for me, it was the right penalty. What he did wasn’t right, but it wasn’t dangerous – we were doing 40km/h – so it was more silly than anything. It’s done, and I don’t think it should drag out any more. Somehow I reckon it might get discussed in Austria though!

I got some downtime eventually on the Wednesday after Baku, and got to spend some time at home training and do some stuff for my birthday on the weekend, so that was cool. Turning 28? Yeah, not unhappy with that. But it did get me thinking about one of my favourite sportspeople and one of my favourite sports – Valentino Rossi and MotoGP. He’s 10 years older than me, and someone told me that the span between his first win and his most recent one at Assen (the same day we raced at Baku) was 21 years. 21 years! The winning – and he’s clearly done heaps of that – is one thing, but he’s an inspiration even just from a physical standpoint. MotoGP is such a physical sport (not to mention the injuries you put up with), so for him to still be doing it the way he is and to be right up near the front in the championship again – it’s pretty remarkable.

Mentally, he clearly hasn’t been ground down by the travel, the off the bike stuff, the commitments outside of racing, and that’s almost as impressive. For me, when the day comes one day (hopefully not for a fair while!) that I stop, I reckon it’ll be the fatigue with the whole circus and wanting to lay low for a bit and not see an airport that would be more of a factor than physical fatigue or losing that thrill of competition or driving these cars. With Valentino, what amazes me is that I know the commitments I have and how busy life can be, and if you multiplied that by 50 (or probably more), that’s him. Combine that with the physical side and how he’s racing against guys a generation younger than him and he’s still right up there, he just amazes me.

Anyway, I’ve got off-topic a bit. There’s a race this weekend, and given it’s Austria we’ll be pretty busy, which is cool. Baku was such a crazy race that it’s hard to read too much into the performance side of things, but we were more competitive even when things were more normal on Friday, and I reckon we’ve made a step. But in saying that, I reckon Mercedes gave us a look at what they might have up their sleeve in Baku when (Valtteri) Bottas was chasing down (Lance) Stroll in those last few laps. When he turned up the wick, that thing absolutely flew, and they probably still have a chunk of time over us, nobody is denying that. But things are getting better for us, and we have a few updates coming for Silverstone and a few again for Budapest. I’m hopeful that, with a combination of the Budapest track suiting us and some improvements on the car, we can be competitive there. And if there’s any more craziness to take advantage of, then I’ll be in there again …

The Dan Diaries: Why Monaco is magic

Daniel Ricciardo writes about the most famous F1 race of all – and why street circuits sort out the men from the boys.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It’s about to be the busiest week of the year with Monaco this weekend, which is why I’m spending some time now just cruising, chilling at home in my apartment, and waiting for the chaos to begin! But the chaos is definitely cool, and it’s the one race of the year that the time before you get out on track for first practice can’t go quickly enough.

I’ve lived here now since the middle of 2013, and there’s definitely no other week like the race week. Monaco changes so much from what it normally is that I hardly recognise the place to be honest. It feels like a real race track, and I’m not thinking ‘there’s a cafe I eat at’ or ‘there’s a street I ride my Vespa down’ or whatever. All these restaurants and bars have pop-ups that just emerge for the week, and with all of the road closures, it doesn’t really feel like home at all, even though you’re at home surrounded by your own stuff. The boats in the harbour get bigger too, not that they’re ever that small here …

The logistics of the whole event are pretty unreal too when you think of what a small space it is. The Porsche support paddock is near where I live, and the World Series paddock is on the other side of Monaco altogether. There’s cars stashed all around the city, which is kinda cool. It always amazes me how fast everything gets packed up afterwards too. The grandstands, those guys don’t muck around – give it a week or two after the race, and things are more or less back to normal, which is pretty impressive.

Probably the weirdest thing for me with Monaco is the routine you get into for the weekend when you live here. You wake up in your own bed, kick around your apartment and then start the journey to work. Walk down to the port, get onto a boat, and then onto the Energy Station which is Red Bull’s base for the weekend. It’s a nice way to get to work! It’s the little things like that that mean I can’t ever see the novelty of Monaco wearing off on race week. I’ve done F1 for a few years now and there are things like, say, testing, where it doesn’t give you the excitement it once did. But Monaco on race week – you’d never take it for granted.

Thursday practice is all about recalibrating your brain to just how tight this place is, getting your eyes to adjust to seeing barriers and not grass or gravel run-offs. I always think that some drivers are born with some street circuit abilities and are confident, and others aren’t. The first time I ever did a street circuit was in Macau, and I really didn’t know what sort of driver I’d be – I’d either be shit-scared of walls, or love them! But I loved them straight away. When one driver would, say, clip a barrier and not want to do that again, I’d be more like ‘let’s do that again if it makes my lap faster’. Walking that tightrope is just so cool. But Thursday at Monaco has to be a gradual process. You need as much track time as you can get, so going too hard too early and smashing up the car can ruin the whole weekend, so you build and build as the sessions go on. The idea is that by Saturday afternoon in Q3 when you have that one lap to nail it in qualifying, you’re completely ready to push that little bit more.

Picking a favourite part of the track is hard because it’s all so good, but Tabac and the entry to the Swimming Pool section are pretty special. They’re the fastest corners on the track and I like the fast stuff, plus you have to use all of the track. Tabac, the commitment you need is pretty immense, and you see the guys with the confidence on street circuits have the car pinned right up against the outside barrier, whereas some other guys will be half a metre away. And Swimming Pool, jumping across the kerbs … so good. The hardest corner? Turn 1, Sainte Devote, which is why you see a lot of people drop it in the barriers there. It’s tricky, the apex is a bit blind, and you normally get there in qualifying when your tyres are at their coldest. If you lock a brake, you’re in the barrier or have to bail out and go left down the escape road, so your lap is gone. For me, that’s always been the corner on the track where if you get it right, it feels seriously good. It’s the one corner where you always feel you could have got a bit more out of it, but you’re better off being at 98 per cent there than over the top.

Last year I got pole and did a 1min 13.6sec lap, which was seven-tenths faster than I’d done all weekend before that. It was the most intense 73 seconds of the year, and I can remember the lap pretty clearly even now. That first corner, I nailed it in terms of the braking point and not locking a wheel, and I remember getting out of Turn 1 and feeling really confident that something good could be about to happen. When I got to Mirabeau, there’s a banking right on the apex, and your front wheel either drops into it or skates across it. The front wheel dropped perfectly, and that gave me even more confidence. And then the last sector of the lap, it’s the part I like best and where I feel I really come into my own. Add all of that together – it’s my only pole position so it’s not like I have heaps of them to remember, but it was a pretty sweet lap because even now, re-thinking it corner by corner, I can’t see where I could have realistically got much more out of it.

There’s so much going on socially during this week that there’s distractions everywhere if you’re looking for them. I actually find that motivating – there’s all these people here for the show, Monaco is the centre of attention, and I’m in the middle of it – there’s a chance to be the hero of the scene! Every year I have friends who come to this race, and part of me is envious because they’re able to soak the whole experience in. Even if you’re not at the events and the parties, you still feel the atmosphere. The good thing for me is that if I have mates come to other races that are a bit quieter, I worry that maybe they won’t have as much to do and I feel more obliged to make sure they’re having a good time and all of that. Here? I can let them get on with it – point them in the direction of some bars and hopefully join them Sunday night if everything goes like I want it to!

The Dan Diaries: Aiming for gains

Daniel Ricciardo writes about the lessons learned from the first four races of the year, and why everyone in F1 is talking about Fernando Alonso and the Indy 500.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It’s been a while since we did one of these, but things have been a bit busy, so that’s my excuse. Since Australia, it seems like we’ve been on the road the whole time. With Spain coming up next and Monaco after that – which means I get to sleep in my own bed – there won’t be as much time on the road. Which will balance out the crazy schedule I’ve kept this week since Russia.

We had the race last Sunday in Sochi, and then things got hectic – I managed to do five flights in 36 hours or so! I went from Sochi straight after the race to Budapest for a show car run on the Monday, and from there it was Salzburg for a night, then to Graz, then to Milton Keynes and the Red Bull Racing factory for a day in the simulator, and then back to Nice and home. So there’s been a bit going on after I basically had last Sunday off.

Russia was a bit of a non-event for me unfortunately, and I was actually pretty surprised when someone told me that being out after five laps was the earliest I’ve ever retired from a race in all my time in F1. I’m not even sure there were two flying laps after the safety car on lap one and then my brakes catching fire and having to come in. So it was weird being at an F1 race and it going on around me, and I wasn’t in it. I didn’t enjoy it a lot …

What do you do when you’re out of a race that early? I actually didn’t have any idea what you were supposed to do. Is there a procedure you’re supposed to follow? Is there a list of things you have to do? There wasn’t much to debrief, and it wasn’t like I needed an ice bath or to be rehydrated or anything. I got changed, did my media commitments, chatted to my physio Sam (Village), and then went to the garage to watch the race. I ended up watching the whole thing standing up, mostly because I had way too much energy because I was still jacked up and hadn’t used any of it in the race. It was a weird thing, you spend the whole day building up and trying to store energy so you can peak for that 90 minutes of the race, and then you don’t get to use all of that adrenaline. So yeah, it sucked alright, and I actually felt a bit confused! Here’s hoping I don’t have to do that again for a while.

It’s been a mixed start to the season for me – a fourth and a fifth which were OK, and a couple of retirements, which isn’t what you ever want. We’ve all got a good idea of where we stand now, and I know we still need to see where we are in Barcelona, but unfortunately we’re too far away from the front at the moment. Even if we have a good update in Barcelona, it’s hard to see how that instantly puts us on the top step, and we all know that. It could take a little while for us to be able to fight for some wins, but we’re optimistic we can make up some good ground.

It’s frustrating that we’ve started a bit further back than what we hoped we would, but more generally it’s positive for the sport that we don’t have Mercedes dominating by two seconds a lap again and there’s some competition up front with Ferrari giving them a hard time. That’s definitely a good sign for the sport based on what has happened the last few years – it’d be nice if we can join in though, and I’m optimistic we can.

I’ve definitely got a feel for the new cars now too, and the one thing I can absolutely say is that they’re way more fun when you’re driving by yourself over one lap, in qualifying when everything’s turned up, you’re on low fuel and you’re really pushing. From the physical side and as a challenge, that’s great. The racing though – I’m still not sure.

Passing or getting close to another car to pass is definitely more difficult, and there’ll be some tracks that lend themselves more to that than others of course, but the main issue is that because the cars are wider and they take up more space on the track, it’s harder to get clean air and some empty track to get a bit more downforce on your car. Little things like that make a huge difference, and I reckon all of us drivers would agree that it’s easier to defend now, but harder to follow. It’s not like the cars are massively wider, but when you think of that extra width as a percentage of the racing line we’ve been used to – it’s a big change. When you’re taking away width from what was a narrow racing line to start with, it makes a big difference.

We’re bringing a pretty significant upgrade to Spain and that’s been spoken about a lot, and you can be sure all of the other teams will be pushing like crazy too. That’s something I’ve noticed since I’ve been with a big team like Red Bull, you normally go to Spain with pretty much a different car. So it’ll be a reset for us to get a read as to how much improving we need to do. There’s no magic bullet in F1 that’s going to see us start winning every race from here, that sort of thing just doesn’t exist. So I’m hoping we can be pleasantly surprised with any gains we make next weekend. Spain will probably shape the season from Barcelona until Budapest and the mid-year break, so it’s an important one for us to get as right as we can.

Outside of the racing and everyone being away from their bases with the flyaways, the biggest story in F1 lately hasn’t had anything to do with F1 at all – I’m talking about Fernando (Alonso) doing the Indy 500. It just created a massive amount of hype when the news came out and was all everyone was talking about for a while there. When you think about it, he’s about to do his first IndyCar race on an oval, and not just any oval, the most famous oval of all on the most famous weekend in oval racing anywhere – it’s pretty massive. Just a cool sporting story.

I love Indy, but if I’m being completely honest, it scares me. So for him to go and do that for his first time on an oval, wow. As long as I had the right preparation before I jumped in the deep end, I’d be up for an IndyCar race on a road course, but an oval, I reckon I’d be more up for a NASCAR. When you think of all the steps he has to do, the rookie orientation practice, the learning to run in traffic on an oval – it’s very intense and a very big deal. You have to give him all the credit in the world for having a crack. All I know is that there’ll be a lot more F1 people than usual who end up watching Indy this year to see how he goes – we need to find someone who has a massive TV so we can watch the race Sunday night after we’re done at Monaco. I guarantee you we’ll all be watching to see how he goes, and anyone who loves motorsport will be too.

The Dan Diaries: Aussie rules

As he prepares for his home Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo writes about flying the Australian flag on the world stage, and why one Albert Park moment is the highlight of his year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It’s almost time to get things started properly for the Formula One season in Melbourne, and for my voice, that’s probably a good thing – there’s been a lot of talking this week! Having the first race as your home race is pretty full-on, but in ways, Australia being the first race and the attention that comes my way is actually a good thing. There would be massive interest in the first race anyway no matter where it was – everyone wants to know how your team stacks up against the others, what the rule changes have done over the off-season and whatnot. Adding some extra attention for me because it’s a home race? Tiring, sure, but pretty cool at the same time.

I’m only half-joking when I say that being in the car out on track might be the quietest it gets all week in Melbourne. To give you an idea of how crazy the week is, I flew into Sydney on Monday, and there’ll be things to do and places to be most hours of every day for eight days. They’re big days, but they’re easier for me to handle now because I know what’s coming. I train a bit harder the week before, get pretty obsessive with how hydrated I am, get good sleep. One thing I never forget is that it’s a massive privilege to have a home race as an Australian, and I want to enjoy all of it.

Being one of the few Australians in a properly global sport is a really big deal. It’s probably not something I thought about when I first started in F1 even though I knew there weren’t that many Aussie accents around – I’m much more mindful of it now as I’ve got older. Being older makes you more aware and responsible – that’s what old people always say, right? But I am very aware that in some ways I become a bit of an ambassador for Australia, who we are, what we’re like as people, as we go from one race to another.

What reminds me of the importance of being a good ambassador for us when we’re overseas is when I see other global sports where there aren’t many Aussies involved. For the kids here who are into that sport, that person has a big responsibility. When you’re out of the car, how you portray yourself, how you treat people – all of that is so important. I never feel like I have to try that hard – that old saying of treating people how you want to be treated is so true – but when you’re the one Aussie driver in a global sport, it’s important to do it right.

One of the best moments of my year will happen this weekend, at least based on the last few years. The drivers parade on race day in Melbourne is something that just seems to be better every year. Seriously, it’s almost a bit surreal. There’s just so much to take in and it’s actually very emotional, I’m not going to lie (and I’m not going to cry, don’t worry). You’re made to feel really important, and you definitely get jacked up and want to perform your best. Last year there were people literally running along the fence line with the Aussie flag, yelling my name – I’ve been in F1 a while now, but the intensity of the drivers parade in Albert Park still feels a bit weird, almost like it isn’t real. It’s a massive, massive highlight for me. I was that kid sitting in the grandstands cheering for Mark Webber when I was 12 and he finished fifth for Minardi – to think that people are now shouting my name and cheering for me, it seriously gives you goose bumps.

The race here in 2014 when I came second (I know, I got disqualified, but let’s ignore that) still rates as one of the best things that’s happened to me, even if I didn’t get to keep the trophy. OK, I’ve won races since and all of that, but that day, second place at home, we’d had a terrible pre-season, my first-ever F1 podium (while it lasted) on my first weekend for the team – just crazy really. It was all new to me anyway, and then of all the podiums to step onto … When I walked out there, I was still spinning out in a way, my mind was racing and it was all a bit overwhelming. That noise, the people … when they were playing the national anthem for Nico Rosberg who won, I just kept scanning my eyes from one side of the crowd to the other, taking it all in. This might sound a bit weird in some ways, but that view of the sea of people in Albert Park, I’d actually envisaged that, it was the picture I had in my mind of what that would have looked like if one day I got to stand on the podium at my home race. To actually experience something that seems like it would be unachievable, that’s almost like some sort of dream come true … it felt like something I’d seen before, but even better.

There’s something about the fans here that make me even prouder than I normally am to be Australian, and proud that we have a race here that people are so positive about. There’s so many fans of just racing here, people who love motorsport, who love F1. Yes, they come to support me but they support every team, all the drivers. We’ve got a lot of rev-heads who love the speed of it, the thrill of it. It still amazes me to be honest. And we’re so multicultural here, it’s part of what makes Australia great, and it’s part of the reason we have the fans we have.

I’ve commented about Mexico the past two years since we’ve been going back there as a sport and the fans there, and it’s similar to Australia to me in that they’re passionate about the sport, the fans wear their hearts on their sleeves, and it’s genuine. So, thanks to everyone that’s come to the track already and will come over the next few days. If you’re watching on TV, I feel that support. I appreciate it, we all do. We’ll do our best to give you a good show. Just have to stand on that podium again, I guess …

The Dan Diaries: A whole new challenge

In his first driver column for 2017, Daniel Ricciardo talks about the demands of the new F1 machines, and why a gruelling off-season training regimen was worth it.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Let’s cut to the chase here. It’s what you all want to know, right? Are the 2017 Formula One cars that much different from last year? Are they that much more challenging for us drivers? And where do Red Bull sit compared to the others? Last answer first (I’ll get to the others): I’m not 100 per cent sure, and nobody will be until we hit qualifying in Melbourne. Same as every year. Are we going to win in Australia by two laps? No, much as that would be awesome (I’ll take it if anyone’s offering …). But we’re going to be pretty competitive. And now that I’ve had a chance to sample the new cars, I’m looking forward more than usual to my home GP.

There’s definitely no easing straight back into work when pre-season testing kicks off. The days at the circuit are pretty long – we were getting to the track at 7am, we were on track until 6pm, and then I’d do media and debriefs with the team until 9.30pm, so they’re long days. We had a few issues pop up on the days I was in the car, so I haven’t done a full race distance yet – the most laps I did in one stint was 18. But I know enough to know what these cars are going to be like, and my enthusiasm is pretty high, not that it was lacking before …

On the first day it was a bit too early to say whether the new cars really ticked all of the boxes the rule changes had in mind, but by my second day in the car, day three, I think I realised more of the potential of what these cars could be. Made me realise that the high-speed corners will be as quick as they’ve ever been, maybe even quicker. Take Turn 3 at Barcelona for example, and we weren’t exactly cruising through there before … Turn 3 last week was completely flat, no lift off the throttle at all.

I haven’t compared last year’s data to this year’s, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we were 35-40km/h quicker through there, and it was already a 220km/h corner last year with a big lift … It’s a big jump, not a gradual one, and things will be coming at us pretty quickly at some circuits, that’s for sure. It’s going to increase everything – the intensity, the physicality, the fatigue factor, and I welcome that. It’s cool, and it’s what Formula One should be. We’ll all adapt, but there’s no masking that it’ll be a much more physical task this year, and that’s good for the fans and for us drivers.

Now that I have a taste for the 2017 car, I keep thinking of some of the other tracks we go to and what will be a big challenge for us. Sector two at Spa, downhill, Pouhon … that’s one of my favourite corners anyway, and we’ll have a chance to be full throttle through there – how good will that be! If we have a headwind into any of the big corners we come across, it makes a massive difference as to how full on the throttle we can be. Albert Park in a few weeks will be different because it’s a lot more stop-start than Barcelona is, but across the back of the circuit at the chicane, that’ll be pretty lively. The first part will be maybe a little downshift into sixth, the second part might be an upshift into seventh. A good place to be watching, I reckon. Mid-200s through there – the high-speed stuff is going to keep me pretty excited this year!

Preparing for these cars has been a lot of fun, because it meant I could really get after the physical training side in the off-season rather than just top up and keep things at a certain level because the physical challenge wasn’t as great, or because we didn’t want to put weight on that we didn’t need. I had a small break over Christmas, and then it was to the US to really get into the prep for the season, and we went pretty hard.

The emphasis was much more on the strength side of things, working on the core, the neck, that sort of thing. We looked back at last year’s program and didn’t just try to go as hard or a little bit better, we went a lot harder to prepare for what we thought these cars would be like. We went more for strength stuff in the gym, and I figure the cardio side will come when we get more laps in the car and get used to that. It’s hard to make big gains in strength once the season starts, because it’s so hard to get a block of training in because we’re busy and always on the move somewhere. So January was pretty gruelling physically, but so much more fun to train more for a purpose rather than just ticking things over. Because it’s difficult physically, mentally it sharpens you up. I was really happy with how it went – tired, for sure, but satisfied too.

Coming to the first test of the year has changed a bit for me as my career has gone on. In the past it was close to 100 per cent excitement, but now it’s as much curiosity as excitement. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still excitement, but when you’re in a top team, the expectations change, and you’re impatient to get an initial feeling of if you can meet those expectations. Imagine you’re in a team that would be stoked to be, say, fourth in the constructors’ – your feeling about testing is definitely different than when you’re in a team that makes it clear it’s in it to win races, championships, everything. So I’m more curious to know how the car is, how I’m driving, whether I’m rusty or not.

Up until maybe three years ago, every time I hopped back in a car after Christmas I’d think it felt weird, and I wondered if I still remembered how to drive one of these things … Nowadays it feels more normal, so while that nervous excitement is gone, it’s more curiosity – what do I have underneath me, how’s the initial feeling, what does the team think? And then getting back to the factory between tests to go to meetings, spend time in the simulator, getting ready for the next test this week. We finished the test in Barcelona on Thursday, and by 9am Friday morning, it was back in the simulator at Milton Keynes to get ready for the next one.

It’s an intense time, and then comes Melbourne, speaking of intense … The first race of the year would be intense anywhere, and when it comes with such a big change to the cars, and add that there’s one Aussie on the grid – yeah, it’ll be a full-on week. But I think the fans are going to seriously enjoy these cars, and we’ll enjoy pushing them to get the season started properly. Can’t wait.