Exclusive Q&A with Toro Rossos Daniel Ricciardo 23 Mar 2012
For someone who has not driven Sepang for six years, Daniel Ricciardos fifth place in Friday practice for Toro Rosso was a remarkable achievement. His was the quickest Ferrari-engined car, even beating the Scuderias own Fernando Alonso. Okay, the likes of Red Bull and Lotus may have been sandbagging to a degree, but the paddock has duly taken note that Ricciardo is definitely one to watch over the course of this season
Q: Daniel, how did it feel to race in front of your home crowed for the first time?
Daniel Ricciardo: Wow, that was a proud moment - emotional, and of course exciting! So many people were cheering and that was something I had never tasted before. It was also a sort of mixed feeling because the last thing you want to do is to disappoint. But on the other hand it also fuelled energy, which was nice.
Q: You also scored your first two points. Did you think that would be possible?
DR: Well, starting from P10 I knew that theoretically there was a chance, but immediately after the first corner I saw that chance diminishing. Or lets put it this way - after the first corner I didnt think that I would finish the race. I thought I had more damage, but luckily I hadnt and the safety car packed us all close together again. I also had a bit of luck on the last lap. Funnily enough it all happened very quickly - the race flew by, which was an exciting new experience.
Q: For the first time you were racing a competitive Formula One car. Was it much more fun?
DR: It was a lot of fun. The feeling that there is pace underneath your backside was awesome! (laughs) Getting the chance to fight with others - and even better fighting for points - was pure luxury. And it makes the race go by quicker. When you are battling, the laps tick by much more quickly. In fact you want more laps to be able to better your position. When youre in a bad car you just think about when it will be over because last or last-but-one is a lonely spot.
Q: Even racing for backmarkers like HRT can bring valuable experience. Did that experience help you defend your position against Paul di Resta on the last lap which mean that your team mate Jean-Eric Vergne was kicked out of the points?
DR: Yes, I think it definitely helped me. You feel less nervous as you have experienced races already. And it probably lets you focus better on the immediate danger around you and helps you know exactly how to defend.
Q: Was your team principal Franz Tost satisfied with his two new drivers? What objective did he give you for the race?
DR: Yes, he was. We delivered a good race. We focused entirely on the positive sides of the race and of course the team was very happy. For the midfield teams to get into the top ten always means a good result. It takes a lot of guts from our side and of course a bit of luck. If these two things come together you might end up with a smiling face.
Q: The car seems to be a pretty good performer. Did you expect it to be that strong?
DR: I didnt expect it! How can you? Our race pace was not bad in the tests, but we were around seventh in the test pecking order so you dont really expect such a good result. It was a nice surprise. I thought it would be almost impossible to qualify in the top ten - but then to finish ninth, wow, that was a good one.
Q: After three months at the same team together, how would you describe your relationship with your team mate?
DR: It is okay. Weve known each other for four to five years so we were already familiar. In fact weve worked together before. It is what I expected. It is competitive, but I also think we both respect the position we are in and appreciate it. For sure, both of us want to do what is right for the team. On Saturday and Sunday we truly want to beat each other, but for the rest of the time we work together very well. I would say that we both feel that we are going in the right direction because we are making the team better.
Q: Have you been given any indication from the team that they appreciate having you in the cockpit?
DR: The feedback that we are both getting has been very positive. They have been very nice, but nice in a business-like way - welcoming. I can see that the team is enjoying the new challenge. I think they were relieved in Melbourne that they dont have to start with the birds and the bees. With our racing weve shown that we are much further down the evolutionary road! (laughs)
Q: The Sepang track is a real challenge for the car, the tyres and the driver. Can you match you Melbourne performance?
DR: Of course I would love to have a deja-vu moment, but I fear this track is a bit more challenging than Melbourne in every respect. I fear that the top teams will show their true potential.
Q: Who do you count as the top teams?
DR: Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes. With Ferrari I am still not sure, but at least these four teams have a bit more potential. But then you never know and maybe we are among them. I am positive and open for anything, especially for being among the top ten again.
Q: How well do you know that track?
DR: I was here in 2006 with Formula BMW. I agree thats quite a while ago, but I have been working on the simulator for a couple of days, watching on-board videos and going through the data, so I feel fit for the weekend.
Q: Friday is always difficult to judge, with all the different programmes the others are running, but P5 doesnt look all that bad does it?
DR: Yes, I am pretty satisfied with how it went, though I have to say that the track is much more technical than the one in Melbourne. We spent most of the time optimizing the car to the conditions here and have to take into consideration with the set-up that the tyres have to work much harder here. My guess is that having the right balance will be key for qualifying and for the race. I hope we find a good one! (laughs)
Q: What would make you smile on Sunday?
DR: Points, of course. But that all depends on how it works for the top teams - if all their cars finish the race it will be tight for a points finish. But as only the bold succeed, why not have another weekend bagging points? (laughs)
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