Daniel Ricciardo Q&A: I must deliver on Toro Rosso opportunity 13 Jan 2012
Toro Rosso are always ready to spring a surprise with their driver line-ups, as we saw with the untimely exits of Scott Speed (2007) and Sebastian Bourdais (2009). Nevertheless, the decision to oust both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for 2012 really packed a punch. Opting instead for youthful talents Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne is a daring move, but they say fortune favours the brave and Ricciardo is determined to seize his chance, as he explained exclusively to Formula1.com
Q: Daniel, Toro Rossos decision to hire two new guys to race was quite a radical move. Were you surprised?
Daniel Ricciardo: The news was very nice for me to hear! Yes, I was a little surprised, as I wasnt given any hints previously that this was the direction the team was looking into. Its a tremendous opportunity for me and I cant wait for Melbourne, or - even sooner - for Jerez.
Q: Were you surprised about how quickly Formula One careers can be side-lined?
DR: Not really surprised, as I know how it works at this level and I think any level of elite sport. There is always going to be someone else coming through the ranks trying to knock you off, so you always have to be on your game and seize every possible opportunity.
Q: Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has been quoted as saying that Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari are not winners. What can you learn from that about the teams expectations?
DR: I have been working with Dr Marko for four years now so I know very well that he has high expectations. Its always been the case. I use it as motivation to get the best out of myself and push to the very limit. If this is achieved then that's real success.
Q: How important was it to be given the chance to race for HRT for part of last season? It wasnt the most competitive car, but did you learn from the experience?
DR: I always saw it as an opportunity. I knew if I could do well at HRT, it could lead to bigger things. So it didnt really matter how competitive the car was, I just had to learn as much as I could and keep trying to get the most out of it. I believe now it has set me up very well for this year. It was a great move for my career.
Q: Will it give you an advantage over Jean-Eric Vergne?
DR: The obvious thing is experience, which it has given me over him. But we are not talking about years more experience. It should kick start my season and make it perhaps easier for me in the first race or two. But if Jean-Eric is F1 quality, which he has proved, (the advantage of) this extra experience shouldnt last the whole season. Plus we will arrive in Melbourne having already done a fair chunk of testing, so things will start to even out soon enough. At least in theory! (laughs)
Q: There have been comments from you lately that you have to get tougher. What exactly does that mean?
DR: Ha! I was interviewed recently and was talking about a few points and yes that was one I made. It probably got blown out of proportion, but it is one area which I want to improve, although not really any more than other areas such as qualifying, pit stops etc. About the toughness, I was suggesting I had been a bit cautious in some situations last season to make sure I got the miles and finished races. I was less careful in Singapore on the opening lap and paid for it, so I realized in my position it was probably better at that stage not to go for the smaller gaps.
Q: Toro Rosso nurture talents for Red Bull Racing. Now the last two guys were not deemed to be fit for that purpose. Will you take a shot at claiming Mark Webbers seat?
DR: There has already been talk about this in the media, which seems pretty optimistic. We havent even sat in a car yet for 2012 and they are already looking at 2013. Its a long time away and many things can happen between now and then, thats the reality. I understand very well the philosophy of Red Bull and, yes, one day I would love to race for Red Bull Racing, but thats all it is for now - just a bit of a goal. I have 20 races this year which I will take one by one and make sure I leave every event fulfilled and with no regrets.
Q: How will you prepare for the first Grand Prix of the season - your home race - in Australia in March? How will you get ready in terms of fitness, technical know-how and familiarising yourself with people in the team?
DR: From now until Melbourne is a very busy and exciting time. I spent some time with my trainer in Australia over Christmas to get physically prepared for the year ahead. That will be a constant process throughout the year and we just have to manage our time and energy around the very busy calendar. I have already spent time in Italy with Toro Rosso discussing the testing programme and getting familiar with all the team. There are also photo shoots, filming days, sponsor events - it is a never-ending list this time of the year. Everyone wants a piece! But thats all due to excitement and passion. We love Formula One.
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