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Arriving in Baku with ‘unfinished business’ - Daniel Ricciardo Q&A

16 Jun 2016

The wrong strategy in Spain, the botched pit stop in Monaco, a costly lock-up in Canada - things have not been going smoothly of late for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Furthermore he knows that the Baku City Circuit - venue for this weekend’s 2016 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe - is unlikely to play to the RB12’s strengths either. Nevertheless, the thrill of the new - and the chance to strike back after his recent misfortunes - is enough to motivate Ricciardo. We caught up with the Australian for an exclusive chat in Azerbaijan…

Q: Daniel, the last few races have seen you suffer bad luck of various sorts. How was it from the cockpit? Were you cursing into your helmet?

Daniel Ricciardo: Ha, I am a well-tempered person. Yes, some of it has been frustrating and the first impulse is aggression - and I think I let some of this aggression out in qualifying in Canada in the last corner - but I think in the end you must not let it consume you. If you let anger take over that leads to mistakes and then a vicious circle starts. I have come here this weekend fortunately only a few days after the last race, so there are things I want to achieve here - let’s call it unfinished business - and I want to have a cool, clear head.

Q: Renault have made a huge leap forward with your power unit, and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff believes that Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are now pretty even with his team. Would you agree with that?

DR: We are getting closer, yes, but I don’t think that we are even yet. If we look back, we saw that Nico Rosberg found it quite difficult to pass Max (Verstappen) in Montreal, but I still believe they are able to run more downforce than us. And even if both cars were to run on the same downforce level I think that Mercedes would have a speed advantage. But we are closing in! (laughs) 

Q: Baku is said to be more a power-sensitive track than Montreal. How would you rate your chances?

DR: Fortunately we do have the engine update - otherwise it would be pretty dull. But yes, I would see the Mercedes in the front. My guess is also that Williams and Force India will do well.

Q: …so in a word, all the Mercedes-powered teams?

DR: Yes, and don’t underestimate Ferrari. As I just said, luckily we have the upgrade - otherwise it would be a very difficult circuit.

Q: What are the key sections here?

DR: This track actually has a lot of interesting parts. First there is Turns 8, 9 and 10 - that section looks fun: pretty tight and pretty close to the wall - but a go for pushing it to the limit! Then Turn 5 and 6 looks very technical. Then Turn 16, as it is full throttle for a long time - there you can lose a lot. But right now it is all talk. Let’s see how reality is.

Q: The pit entry looks pretty tricky…

DR: …yes it does. If a driver doesn’t get it right there, it is easily half a second lost. If you are trying an under- or an over-cut in the race, it could easily be that the pit entry could dictate who wins a position. Actually I like it. It looks good!

Q: How would you characterise the circuit? Can it be compared with anywhere we already know?

DR: Well, Turn 8 reminds me a bit of Macao. And I like Macao. Some of the layout, the kerbs and apexes are a bit like a combination of Valencia and Singapore. Other corners are completely unique - which is cool. It’s always fun coming to a new circuit. It keeps it fresh for us.

Q: Some of your competitors said that they’ve spent up to 70 laps in the simulator to get to know this track? What about you?

DR: Something in the range of 40 laps. More than that is boring. I did just enough to learn the track.

Q: Fernando Alonso said that he’s done zero laps…

DR: Ha, I know he doesn’t like the simulator. In the end it is just having a first glimpse of how the track goes - but it is not possible to do set-up work, as you don’t know the level of grip. So I was happy with my amount of laps, but I can also understand Fernando’s attitude.

Q: Your new team mate is pushing you pretty hard. Have you also raised your game as a result?

DR: Yes, it is really good. I like having competition. Max is really fast and I like that.

Q: Were you missing that with previous team mate Daniil Kvyat? Your team boss Christian Horner had said that recently there was a visible gap in pace between you?

DR: At the first couple of races when he was my team mate I still felt that I was getting the most out of myself. Last year Daniil had some pretty good races and was putting pressure on me. But I think yes, the season didn’t start well for him and it seemed he was struggling to get the momentum that he had last year. Then Max came in and immediately was there!

Q: Christian also said that the best Red Bull Racing can hope for this season is to win a couple more races. Where do you see the tracks for that being?

DR: Tracks like Budapest or Singapore - and if it rains Silverstone could also be a good bet. But Singapore should be a real chance - just like Monaco. We should be able to fight for pole there.

Q: Word has it that you did the lap of your life in Monaco…

DR: I hope not! (laughs) But yes, it was good. I looked at the onboard camera afterwards and saw that I had some understeer at certain parts and thought that we actually could have been quicker if we’d had a bit more front grip. But the lap itself - for the tools I had - was pretty perfect.

Q: So all the rumours about a move to Ferrari are purely that, as you have a long-term contract with Red Bull. Is that the bottom line?

DR: Well, yes, the deal with Red Bull was always long term. The only thing that was keeping things a bit open was performance.

Q: From your side or from their side…

DR: Ha, more from my side. But again, if they were doing really bad then I am sure if I had an approach for a winning car then it would have been okay. But at the moment, behind Mercedes it is the next best place to be and I hope that in 2017 we can be as good as Mercedes.

Q: So do you see yourself as world champion in 2017? Is that what you are going after?

DR: Yep, that would be the perfect scenario.