F1's Daniel Ricciardo is driven
ESQ: Are you nervous about this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? Do you get nervous?
Daniel Ricciardo: Sure, I mean everyone gets a bit nervous, but it’s not anxiety. I see it like a positive adrenaline-based nervousness that shows I’m excited. It's been a long season but I’m ready to finish on a high and set a little bit of a note for the 2017 season.
Do you think about it all the time? Like, waking up every morning and think oh yeah… F1!
Not really. When I was a kid I did, and I think some drivers completly live and breathe it, but for me it’s such an intense sport that I think you need other things outside of it. When I’m away from the track I don’t really think about it much. Sure, if I’m in the gym training towards being better in the car, but in general I don't think about it every day. It would probably bore me otherwise.
It's a deceptively strenuous sport. What is the preparation for it like?
It’s hard to explain, it’s really physical but people think "oh yeah, I drive a car every day, what’s the difference?" I'd say a key difference is that because we corner and accelerate so fast our bodies go through a lot of G-forces and that produces a lot of stress on places like your neck and lower back. Even though were tied into the car we cop a lot of the force.
Your lower back is always trying to twist in the car and your obviously trying to hold it. You need a strong core and definitely a strong neck and good endurance because the race is an hour and a half, two hours long. Your heart rate is also around 150bpm for the race so it’s pretty high intensity.
You need a lot of cardio endurance, so cycling and things like that help and some good strength stuff to withstand the forces, but it’s a sport where keeping light is important so we can’t actually put on that much muscle. There’s a lot of strength and endurance training, as opposed to just bulking muscle.
And what about eating healthy?
It’s on yourself really. We have trainers who advise us on what a good diet is, and maybe what works for us, but it's on you to carry that out. I enjoy eating healthy, but sure, I’m not eating clean and lean seven days a week. I’ll have one day where I’m relaxing a bit for sure.
Probably after the weekend?
Yeah, well I always do on the Monday after a race, that’s my day off. I normally don’t train after a race and I’ll eat whatever I’m craving.
What are you craving? What’s going to be ordered on Monday?
I normally crave a good burger. Like a good, greasy, filthy hamburger. In terms of sweet stuff, it's ice cream. I’m a bit of a sucker for ice cream. A burger and a shake is a good or, should I say, bad meal.
Is there anything you need to consider when driving on a track like Abu Dhabi?
Normally the most physical races throughout the year are the hottest ones, because then your dehydration comes in as you don’t get much fluid in the car. We get maybe half a litre to drink, and if the race is close to two hours that half-litre goes quickly. We do a lot of pre-hydration before the race, literally forcing fluids into us because you always underestimate how much you actually need.
What does the heat actually do to the tracks?
It normally makes them slower. When the track's really hot it’s harder on the tyres, it seems to chew them up a lot and they get a lot hotter. When the rubber exceeds 100+ degrees then you lose the peak performance grip so it tends to make the car slide more and as a driver, it feels a bit more gooey.
Are you a good day-to-day driver?
Yeah, I’m a good driver.
Would your friends say you’re a good driver?
Yeah, I think what racing teaches you is that you’re always looking ahead, like at the next corner for example. Your constantly looking 100 metres in front of you, as opposed to 20 metres. For things like traffic, you can see what lanes are backing up and which is the best one to go to. You’re more aware of what’s going to happen.
Have you ever had a ticket?
In the ten years of having a driver’s license, I’ve had two tickets. One of them was a month after I got my license! You know when you first get a car and you’re all excited.
Did you always know you wanted to be a driver?
I did, although when I was 8 years old, I wasn’t thinking "I want to be an F1 driver". The realisation didn’t come until I was probably 18 or 19.
On a race day, do you talk through how you’re going to race?
Not necessarily things about how aggressively I'll approach the start. I have a pretty standard approach if there’s a gap, then I'll go for it. Basically being a bad-ass. We have a strategy meeting a few hours before the race and so we have a plan to say were going to stop twice, that’ll be the best race for us and we should fit two sets of new tyres. Things change so we talk about if you lose position at the start and your behind a slower car then we might pit earlier to try and do this and that. There’s discussions all week regarding what happens on the Sunday.
Do you ever argue?
I would say there’s "negotiations" but that’s why we talk about it before hand, to get everyone’s opinion and then by the end we say alright this is what well do and we all convince each other that it’s the right thing.
Do you have the final say?
If I think really strongly about something then, yes. They have enough data compiled so if they disagree with me, then they’ll have enough to probably say "look this is what we’re going to do because of this," but, if I say "guys, trust me this is going to work," then they’ll listen to me.
I guess you’re in the car?
So, Rosberg and Hamilton, do you get on with them?
Yeah, for the most part. Off the track I’ve got no beef with either of them. I think they are nice enough guys, but on track, it’s every man for himself! I’m a pretty aggressive racer, but at the same time I also feel like I race with an element of respect, so I don’t feel like I’ve ever been 'dirty' or taken someone out intentionally. But if there’s a gap and I feel I can go for it, even if it seems a bit on the edge, then I’ll go for it. Those two are both fighting for the title this weekend so I respect the position they're in, but for me, if there’s an opportunity to try and win the race, then I'm going for it.
Do you speak outside the races and stuff?
A little bit, Lewis is a bit more up and down. He prefers doing his own thing. On the driver’s parade - which we do a few hours before the race where we go around and wave to the fans - for most drivers we use it as a chance to have a chat. We don't really talk about the race, but more what you’re doing after, and I’m more likely to speak to Rosberg in that time. Lewis tends to have his music on, and stays to himself.
Talk us through the nickname 'honey badger'...
Haha. Originally, it was from my trainer. A few years ago he had seen some of the clips on YouTube of a honey badger and thought it resembled a part of me that many people don’t really see. At that stage I wasn’t really established in F1, I wasn’t with Red Bull, so I wasn’t running at the front. Not many people knew a whole lot about me, and hadn’t seen the more aggressive side of me on track.
It was always the 'smiling happy guy', and that’s what the honey badger looks like. It looks kind of cute and waddles along, but when its back's up against the wall he completely flips a switch and goes nuts. I want to be world champion, on track if someone is trying to take that away from me then there is a switch that flicks, and I think a few people have seen that.
What was your first car?
I’ve still got my first car! It’s in Australia. It was a Toyota Hilux - it’s like a mini truck. I love bikes and I was always riding them, so I bought it so I could put my bike on the back and go out camping, fishing or riding with mates. It's ten years old and its done less than 40,000 km.
Do you still drive it?
Yeah, when I’m home, that’s what I drive. It’s a cool car.