As the new F1 season kicks off, Daniel Ricciardo has moved from Red Bull to Renault. He finished 6th in 2018 and scored 29 podium finishes as well as six Grand Prix wins for the Austrian team. Now, Ricciardo and his new teammate Nico Hülkenberg are set to spearhead Renault’s fight to get back to the form that saw them produce championship wins for Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006.
Ricciardo is known as the best overtaker in the sport and he’s twice finished third in the drivers’ championship. It may be a slow build up with his new team, but as he told RSNG, we’ll be seeing lots of highly entertaining and aggressive driving from the 29-year-old Australian in 2019…
RSNG How are you feeling about the move to Renault? DANIEL RICCIARDO, F1 DRIVER ‘It’s happening now, it’s 2019 I don’t have to kind of hide anymore or tread carefully, it’s all out in the open. It’s here and I’m just really excited. I guess the change came to really kind of push the team, I mean they’ve been on a really good trajectory over the last few years and I wanted to move here and now help that momentum and really keep it pushing forward.
‘In 2016, they were ninth, in 2017 sixth and last year they were fourth, so they are really on the up. You can feel that the atmosphere is all moulding into this place where, I don’t know… this happy place.’
RSNG What about your new teammate Nico Hülkenberg? DR ‘Nico and I live very close together in Monaco, so we travelled together a bit, we’ve played tennis together before and from a personal point of view I know him relatively well. From a call at business point of view, I’ve never raced with him before, I’ve never been part of the same team with him… so I’ve never worked with him before, but I am excited to build this.’
You’re gonna see a very hungry Daniel – nothing will change, still very aggressive at overtaking and having fun
RSNG What kind of a drive will we see in 2019 from you? DR ‘There is still very much a fire inside me and yeah, this move to Renault is not a move which I feel is a backward step for me. I feel like this is the next step in my career. So, yeah, you’re gonna see a very hungry Daniel. Nothing will change, still very aggressive at overtaking and having fun. I feel like I am revitalised… it’s cool!’
RSNG Do you feel like you have something to prove? DR ‘Do I feel like I have something to prove? Sure, but I’ve never not felt like that at any point in my career. Sometimes just the idea of trying something different gives you an extra 5% or 10%, so I think those two things combined will make this a really smart decision.’
‘Of course, there are a lot of anomalies and there is a lot to get used to, but I look on that as being the fun part. Yes everyone is outside of their comfort zone, but isn’t that how you should always be as a sportsman? I’ve always found it is when people relax they begin to become complacent, and complacency in motor racing, probably more than any other sport in the world, is very dangerous indeed.’
‘So we must stay focused, we must respect the job, but we must still learn to relax to the point where we can get the job done most efficiently. It is a balancing act and one, I feel, at the age I am, I can perform.’
If you’re comfortable in the car, then you are comfortable with pushing the limits and finding the limits
RSNG What are your first impressions of the Renault F1 team? DR ‘The first few days have been good, and I think the most important thing for a driver initially, is to feel comfortable with the car and that’s not only with the balance and how it responds, but also just the car itself – the seat, the steering, the functions.’
‘I feel like I got to grips with that really quickly and it didn’t feel like it took long on day one of the winter testing at Catalunya, to start trying to find the limits with the car – so, that was positive.’
‘It actually sounds silly, but that’s actually the first thing that you want to feel comfortable in the car because if you are comfortable, then you are comfortable with pushing the limits and finding the limits. That’s that box tick and the next stage will be to find out what works, even little things like finding out what the front wing does on this car compared on what I had on last year’s car.’
RSNG Talk us through that process? DR ‘Day one was mainly about familiarisation and unfortunately, day two obviously got cut short but I was able to do one long run of about 15 or so laps. I thought that was kind of encouraging, the way we started the run and how the tyres behaved throughout. I didn’t feel like we were that far away from where it should be. Yeah, the use of tyres at this stage seemed alright, so that was encouraging.’
‘The wing failure which cut the second day short was broken before I had braked, before turn one. But I didn’t notice because I was in a straight line and DRS was open, you don’t really know when something like that happens – well, I didn’t anyway!’
‘As soon as I braked, I basically lost the car and I suspected then that the rear wing had stayed open or similar. The barrier was coming at me pretty quick, so because I kind of slid sideways in the gravel, that did help me slow down. Fortunately we stayed out of that and obviously I lost the morning, but Nico was good to go for the afternoon.’
RSNG Your first opportunity to learn how to work within the team. How did you find it in the garage getting to know new names and faces? DR ‘Yeah, the name thing will take a while, haha! ‘Mate…’ Mate works. Actually, I would encourage every team to do this, but Red Bull had names on the uniforms so that was always easy. But it will take a bit of time, but so far, so good.’
‘I could tell when I got into the car on the first day that everyone was a bit of… I don’t know, there seemed to be a sense of excitement and I think probably a bit nervous and curious about my first impressions and ‘please, say something good about the car’. I felt that there was a bit of tension, but it was all positive... so far, so good!’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Daniel Ricciardo behind the scenes at Renault’s pre-season testing in Catalunya.