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Exclusive Daniel Ricciardo Q&A: Start changes could help Red Bull

20 Aug 2015

Daniel Ricciardo arrives in Belgium on a (relative) high, having finally returned to the podium in Hungary last time out. And while he concedes that there is little chance of repeating his 2014 Spa win on Sunday, he hopes the revised race start procedures - putting more onus on the driver - could boost Red Bull’s fortunes (or at least hinder those of rival teams)…

Q: Daniel, how important was that Budapest weekend for you and the team?

Daniel Ricciardo:
Actually it was very important. Well, for me it was just nice to be on the podium again - though for sure it was not something to get carried away with, and as a driver I didn’t need it for my self-confidence. But of course it is nice to be back up there for the team - and especially for Renault it was pretty nice. We have been through ups and downs a lot this year and to see a smile on their face - that went a long way! (laughs)

Q: So the team were overwhelmed, whereas for you it was it was a case of ‘why didn’t this happen earlier?’…

DR: Yes and no. But to be honest, in the end I was still very pleased! 

Q: Was it annoying that team mate Daniil Kvyat finished ahead of you? Or is that completely irrelevant given the situation at Red Bull?

DR: Ha, in the end you don’t want to be beaten by your team mate, but in the circumstances it was great to have both of us on the podium - no matter what the order. To know that I did everything I could in that race, that obviously made my day. I did have the stronger race - pace-wise - so I can look back and say, ‘Sure he finished ahead, but I felt that I drove the better race,’ and I think he acknowledged that in the press conference. But in the end it was cool - for both of us - and going into the summer break with that result, that was super.

Q: The top four finishers in Budapest were all drivers nurtured by Red Bull: Vettel, Kvyat, you and Verstappen. That speaks very highly for their young driver programme…

DR: Ha, thanks for mentioning that - I really think that it was one of the happiest days of [Red Bull motorsport consultant] Helmut’s (Marko) life. I am proud of him because I think he also deserved that moment - him and Red Bull. The brand took a lot of risks to build up such a junior team with all these youngsters and to have such a reward like that, they deserve a lot of respect - and I am very glad to be part of giving something back.

Q: This weekend we go from a slow circuit in the Hungaroring to the complete opposite: Spa-Francorchamps. What is the masterplan?

DR: Sure, it will not be that easy. I can’t come here expecting too much - even though I would love to walk away like I did last year! (laughs) But there are always uncertainties about this track - namely the conditions - which always give you the chance to have a good race. Aside from with HRT I have always been in the points here and had a strong race - so why not this Sunday? I think Mercedes will definitely be the top team here - the combination of medium-speed corners and the straights will be perfect for them. For us: delivering a decent race would be great.

Q: Is Singapore the next race at which we could see a really strong result for Red Bull?

DR: Yes, mathematically for sure. I think it was even our most competitive race last year.

Q: So the task is to get through the next two races - Spa and Monza - and to shine again in Singapore?

DR: Probably, yes.

Q: Mercedes practised ‘Spa starts’ in Budapest and then had really poor getaways in the race. How prepared are you for the new starting procedures?

DR: We did a few little things in Budapest and tried to do some little things on the simulator as well, but in reality for us it can’t be worse. Our starts haven’t been really good and I think the new procedure employs some new variability, as the teams will find it hard to get the optimum settings in terms of clutch temperature and so on. So I hope it will bring the good starters more to our level - and maybe that will help us.

Q: Is the change something you embrace? Will the driver matter more now - more of an active role and no longer just a ‘passenger’?

DR: Don’t let the hype about it obscure the view: we have always been active at the start! But there are still so many variables. If the clutch doesn’t bite and work as it should you are lost. You still need a significant element of luck to have a good start - and you don’t get that from the pit wall anyway. I think the changes are okay, but in the end my feeling is that it didn’t need to be done. But now that it is a fact of life, let’s embrace it.

Q: Speaking of Mercedes, what can you tell us of reports suggesting Red Bull could consider using Mercedes engines next season?

DR: To be honest, nothing has really surfaced in the team in the past few weeks. I have heard that there are talks and for sure we want to have more power next year - wherever it is comes from. The prime goal for us is to find it with Renault - and that is where we are focusing on Sochi to really see what we will be able to do. Everyone is working on that right now. The future will tell.

Q: Finally, your hopes and dreams for this weekend?

DR: The taste of Champagne! If we can fight, do everything we can, and leave on Sunday with a smile, then I will be happy!