Ricciardo’s inside job at Aussie GP
For Australia’s Formula One ace Daniel Ricciardo it’s the ultimate inside knowledge.
And it’s knowledge he and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation are banking on when F1 returns to Melbourne from Friday.
Ricciardo and his F1 rivals are preparing for a new Albert Park track – they’re all yet to drive on the redesigned, resurfaced circuit.
But Ricciardo has revealed he helped remodel the track in a potential inside edge for the Australian.
Ricciardo’s input resulted in the Albert Park circuit being remodelled, with two corners removed and five others widened in a bid to offer more overtaking opportunity.
‘Not taking credit, but I was a little bit involved in the talks about revamping the circuit a few years ago when they had the first idea of what to do to try to make the racing a bit better,’ Ricciardo told reporters at a Heineken media opportunity in Melbourne on Wednesday.
‘It has always been a fun track but on Sundays it has been a little bit tricky for overtaking just through the layout and the nature of it.
‘Really, the idea was to try and open it up and just to make Sunday a bit more exciting and try to have more overtakes.
‘As a race now you’re going to see a totally different Sunday here in Melbourne.’
Australian officials used the two-year F1 absence from Melbourne to perform remedial work, an absence Ricciardo said was hard to take particularly in 2020 when the race was called off as spectators lined up to enter.
‘It was pretty heartbreaking and that’s from a selfish point of view as a driver,’ Ricciardo said.
‘But for everyone that was here expecting to see a race, too. Australia is quite remote so for Aussies to travel to other destinations around the world for races isn’t easy.
‘It was hard on everyone. So very happy we’re back.’
Ricciardo admits some concern at the performance of his McLaren, which has recorded a didn’t finish and 14th in the fresh season.
And so does Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief Andrew Westacott, who is hoping Ricciardo contends in Melbourne to give the home punters what they crave: a local hero.
‘There’s an Aussie factor that is always at play,’ Westacott told AAP.
‘Whether that’s with Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Casey Stoner or Geoff Miller in MotoGP or Mark Webber, Daniel Ricciardo in Formula One.
‘There’s definitely the Aussie factor. We want to see them go well.
‘Apart from Daniel in 2014 getting stripped of the silverware for second, we actually haven’t had an Aussie on the podium at Albert Park.’
Ricciardo spent the past week in his home city of Perth ahead of arriving in Melbourne, reflecting on his battles in the two races this year.
The 32-year-old infamously finished second some eight years ago before his car was disqualified for breaking fuel flow laws.
And he’s failed to finish two of his past three races in Melbourne, which has lost its season-opener status to be third on the F1 race calendar, not that the timing bothers Ricciardo.
‘Honestly, now that we’ve missed it for a couple of years, I’m just kind of thankful that it’s on the calendar,’ he said.
‘Right now, it doesn’t really bother me where it is. As long as we’ve got an Aussie grand prix then I’m happy.’