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Daniel Ricciardo Q&A - the next Australian superstar? 25 Nov 2010

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso Test and Reserve Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 12 November 2010 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Young Driver Test, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday 16 November 2010. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Young Driver Test, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday 17 November 2010. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Young Driver Test, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday 16 November 2010. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Young Driver Test, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday 17 November 2010.

Last week’s young driver test in Abu Dhabi may have given the teams the opportunity to carry out some post-season work, but it also allowed a troupe of young hopefuls to live out their Formula One dreams for a few days. One of those on cloud nine was Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo, who dominated the timesheets on both days. We talked exclusively with the Australian about his test success and his 2011 plans...

Q: Daniel, let’s start with a trick question. Are you the fastest Australian who ever drove a Red Bull?
Daniel Ricciardo:
Oh boy, what a question! I can only lose with my answer. (Laughs) But to be honest I was very happy with my two days running in Abu Dhabi. I did faster laps than Sebastian (Vettel) and Mark (Webber) had done over the race weekend because the track was in a fantastic condition and had a lot of grip. The car felt simply amazing. It is the fastest car in Formula One right now and driving it was almost like playing a videogame. The car is so good that if you drive it on the limit you make fewer mistakes because of the grip. The car is perfect in every aspect.

Q: Had you prepared in Red Bull’s simulator before the Abu Dhabi test?
DR:
Yes. The simulator is amazing. Okay, the g-force is missing, but otherwise it’s very similar to the real thing. The boys have developed this simulator into a perfect tool that helps a lot to get to know a track.

Q: You finished fastest on the two young driver test days, so it must be easier to drive the fastest car on the grid than a midfield machine, even as rookie…
DR:
Of course! And I can tell you why. The car is a very sophisticated unit where each part supplements the others in a perfect way. It makes it so easy to drive, especially when you are pushing to the limit. The tricky thing is that you want to squeeze everything out of the car and then it gets a bit delicate.

Q: You were Red Bull’s test and reserve driver in 2010, so the next logical step would be a permanent race seat. What are your plans for 2011?
DR:
At the moment I have nothing to tell. Of course it is my aim to break into Formula One but right now there are no new developments. Dr Helmut Marko (Red Bull’s motorsport consultant) just briefed me on the two test days - that was it. I am heading home to Australia and I am really looking forward to that. There will be a Red Bull event that I will attend, but otherwise I will relax, train and spend time with my friends and family. I am on standby, but that feels alright with me. I think I had a good season in the World Series and delivered two good test days so I think I did everything I could from my side. It is up to Helmut. I only can wait and hope that he finds me a place for 2011.

Q: Marko is a very serious man, but was he happy with your two days in the car?
DR:
(Laughs) Ha, by his standards he seemed to be quite satisfied. He didn’t say ‘wow, you were faster than Sebastian and Mark’, he just said ‘well done’. Of course he knew that the track was faster after so many days running, with the race weekend and then the tests, but knowing that he’s not an exuberant kind of guy I think he was pretty pleased.

Q: Did you have any Formula One heroes when you were growing up?
DR:
My hero was Ayrton Senna, ever since I was five years-old. His video ‘Racing is in My Blood’ is a vivid part of my childhood memories. My dad showed the film to me. I will never forget it.

Q: Do you have racing in your blood?
DR:
I would say yes. Engines have fascinated me since my early days.

Q: Were you in contact with Vettel and Webber over the course of the season?
DR:
Sure. As Mark is from Australia he is a current hero of mine. That’s logical as I’m from Australia too. I have followed all of his career steps and felt very sorry for him after the Abu Dhabi race - coming such a long way and then losing the title in the very last race. I am sure he will come out of that situation even stronger. He’s a very strong character. He will recharge his batteries in Australia. Don’t forget that he has been away from home for many years. That is anything but easy. Also in this respect he’s a sort of role model for me, as he has exemplified that you sometimes have to leave your home behind if you want to reach your goals.

Q: What about Vettel?
DR:
He too is a kind of hero for me. If you think about it, we are almost the same age. Many times I have walked the tracks with him and his trainer Tommi. I was hanging out with him - and now he’s the world champion! He is a total natural and has a great sense of humour. He is very down to earth and of course he is super fast.

Q: Vettel is the youngest-ever champion. Does that boost your motivation?
DR:
It does. But I am not thinking in terms of breaking records. Seb represents a new generation of drivers, which I also belong to, and it’s good.

Q: There are also some more mature drivers racing in Formula One. Can you imagine still racing when you are over 40?
DR:
Again such a tricky question! (Laughs) I am not 41 but 22 so how should I know what I would do in 19 years’ time! I only see that Formula One is very demanding. It’s not only the driving. The extensive travelling can also take its toll. At the moment I only focus on the next two years - and that I want to be racing in Formula One by then. I am part of the Red Bull young driver programme and I am really proud of that.

Q: A seat at Toro Rosso is probably more likely for your first in Formula One racing, but do you yourself feel ready for a seat at championship-winning team Red Bull?
DR:
That would definitely be a huge challenge but with the intense preparation that Red Bull provides it shouldn’t be a problem.

Q: Did you initially want to become an Australian football star? You always seem to have a football with you in the paddock…
DR:
I’ve tried it. I can throw the ball quite far but in the end I am probably not tough enough for it. Those guys are hard hitters! I prefer a cockpit. My mum obviously spoiled me a bit too much when I was a kid!

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