Daniel Ricciardo fever has hit Melbourne ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

    We sat down with RB F1 Team driver and fan favourite, Daniel Ricciardo, at Honda Australia head office in Melbourne for a series of quick-fire questions.

    As he closes in on his 10th Australian GP, the ever-charming West Australian opened up about his experiences racing Down Under, and ups and downs of a long career in F1, the state of Australian motorsport, and his goals for 2024.

    CarExpert: It’s Australian GP week, how do you handle the pressure and attention on you from the local media and sponsors?

    Daniel Ricciardo: I think over time you learn how to handle it better, more efficiently.

    There’s always a lot of excitement, particularly when it was race one of the season and there was so much anticipation that you could just never do enough. There were a lot of times where it felt a bit overwhelming – more just from a workload point of view.

    It wasn’t necessarily the pressure because every race there’s pressure.

    Okay, here there’s a few more people cheering for me but that should be a positive pressure anyway.

    So, it’s just more the schedule, managing that. That’s what we got a lot better at over the years and now I certainly can enjoy it more than maybe I have in the past.

    If I didn’t enjoy it as much it was more from a schedule point of view, not because I don’t like being home, it’s certainly not that.

    CE: Recently you’ve talked more about the tougher times in your career. How do you think your perspective has changed from when you started in Formula 1 to now?

    DR: You go through the highs and lows and grow as a person. As a sportsman, but also as a person.

    Through the lower days I think you learn a bit more about yourself because everything’s kind of easy when things are going well and you’re winning or whatever, it’s like ‘oh yeah, life’s good’ and you don’t really reflect that much. I think when times are a bit tougher you have a bit more awareness to reflect and see the people around you and things like that.

    A lot of the time you can become a little bit like ‘oh man, this is so tough’ but it’s still an amazing job, it’s my dream job.

    Yes, I’m competitive and I want to do well, but the days that maybe don’t go well I think ‘what can I do better?’ and I’ve most likely got another chance in a week or two weeks time to fix it. Now I’m probably a little bit more appreciative of everything around me.

    CE: The sport has also evolved a lot since you started with the cars, the calendar, and a lot more media attention in recent years. What do you think is next, in terms of changes that might happen in the sport?

    DR: I don’t know. It’s definitely taken off a lot in the last few years. The fan base and the sport has grown, so many more people know what F1 is now, know the drivers.

    From here, I don’t know. They’re definitely making a weekend a bit more of an event.

    I think Melbourne has always done a great job of it, not just having the race but having so much more that goes on around Albert Park and all that. I think a lot of other races now are doing that, building in music and things into the events so I can see that going another step.

    I would just say as long as it doesn’t take over the race, the race should still be the main event and I think the race should still be more of a race than a show.

    The show can go on around it but the race should still be competition at its purest. That’s all I would hope for.

    CE: With Oscar Piastri and yourself on the grid we’ve got two Aussies, which is a rare sight. How do you think we can keep bringing Australian drivers through all the way to F1?

    DR: I think we’re doing a good job.

    There’s 20 of us, myself and Oscar are two of those 20 but then there’s Jack Doohan who’s a reserve driver as well, he’s right on the edge and it’s so close to having three of us full-time.

    I think our racing and our programs and our karting and everything is really strong in Australia.

    Having Oscar that next generation behind me then inspires his generation and the one behind him. It was Mark Webber for me.

    I think that’s also really influential for a kid to realise a dream and try to pursue it, having someone’s footsteps to follow.

    Maybe a 12-year-old kid can’t relate to me as much as they can relate to Oscar. He’s that next inspiration for them and hopefully that cycle keeps going.

    CE: And how about your goals for this year, both personally and for the team?

    DR: Personally, I go back to a weekend like Mexico last year, that was a weekend where I did everything I felt I could and believed I could, it was one of those weekends that I hadn’t felt in a while.

    Those weekends are the reason why I’m back racing again, because I still believe I can do it and produce at the highest level.

    That’s what I want to get back to, hopefully every weekend, but more than less, right? It’s really just performing at the level that I still believe I’m capable of.

    From a team point of view, yes, there are objectives and targets. We were eighth last year in the Constructors Championship, we want to be better than that, sixth would be realistic as a target for us.

    If we could achieve that, I think we would say it’s been a successful season.

    Thank you to Visa Cash App RB and Honda for arranging our chat with Daniel Ricciardo.

    Josh Nevett

    Josh Nevett is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Josh studied journalism at The University of Melbourne and has a passion for performance cars, especially those of the 2000s. Away from the office you will either find him on the cricket field or at the MCG cheering on his beloved Melbourne Demons.

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