Daniel Ricciardo will don the black and yellow colours of Renault for the first time at a Grand Prix in Melbourne. And with 150 races under his belt in Formula 1, he heads home to Australia ready to rock his new machinery in front of an electric crowd.
How much are you looking forward to your home race, and your first outing in Renault colours?
It’s an exciting thought that my first race for Renault is my home Grand Prix. There’s always so much hype at the start of the Formula 1 season, and this has been amplified by me joining a new team. I’ve had this date circled since I announced I’d be signing with Renault and I’m looking forward to getting race week started. It’s been a long winter with a lot of theories and speculation going around, but the race track is where we settle all that. We had a good winter test, I’m growing happier every time I step into the car and the first race will be especially exciting. I feel comfortable within the team; walking through the garage, stepping into the car all feels cool and real now.
Is there added pressure in front of an expectant home crowd?
I know the Australian crowd will be out there supporting me as the sole home representative on the grid. Hopefully there will be a sea of yellow in the grandstands and that will be really motivating. There’s going to be a lot of expectation and attention on us, but we’re remaining realistic with what we have set out to achieve. That doesn’t deter from the fact we’ll be giving it our best shot. The midfield will be close, but we’re chipping away towards closing the gap to the top. The first race is the first chapter on this journey and I’ll be pushing as hard as ever to ensure we do ourselves proud.
What are your initial thoughts on the Renault R.S.19?
My first impressions, on a whole, have been positive and we’ll continue to learn more throughout these early races. It’s going to take some time to get used to everything, but that’s not unexpected. We’re realistic in our approach and we have work to do. We have a decent platform to build on now and we always strive for better. We’ve found some things during testing which we’ll dissect and see what we want to take forward, but our bigger steps will come during the next few months.
What’s a lap around Albert Park like?
It’s a very enjoyable lap to nail with a variety of high and medium speed parts. Turn 1 is quite high speed, which leads into a small straight and then a hard-braking point at Turn 3. The next complex between Turns 4 and 8 are a lot of fun. It’s super quick in these high downforce cars, under the trees with grass verges either side. There’s a good overtaking spot into Turn 9, which requires commitment, with the bank on the left of the exit of that turn always packed with fans. The next phase is also very fast with the left, right chicane and then onto another straight. The final part is a bit tighter, but it’s important to open up the final two corners to allow a good exit onto the main straight.