Daniel Ricciardo has offered a raw insight into his inner workings, reflecting on his development from the nice guy of the paddock who rivals took advantage of into a competitive beast whose drive runs deeper than anyone knows.
The Australian F1 star is preparing to embark on his second season with Renault after a grim debut campaign in 2019 that saw the French team slip to fifth in the constructors’ championship, leading many to question whether Ricciardo made the right move quitting Red Bull at the end of 2018.
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While he plays the funnyman role to perfection in a fiercely intense sport, there’s a burning desire in Ricciardo that pushes him to extreme lengths in a bid for success — and it’s a side to the 30-year-old not even those closest to him are privy to.
“The way I am inside the car and outside the car is me but no one truly will ever know — and maybe everyone has this — but really deep down, not who you are but what it means, what this sport means to me,” Ricciardo told journalist and presenter Will Buxton in a lengthy interview published on the official F1 website.
“Even my trainer Michael, we might do a session together and he might see me push myself but there’s still things I’m doing in my own time, in my own space, which not even he will know or no one really will know.
“That’s little things which I keep to myself, which I’m doing to, whether it’s get an edge or, I’ll think some ways which are a reminder of how much this means to me and how much I want it.
“I’ll obviously let a lot out and through the emotions of the sport people will see when I’m angry, when I’m happy — but it runs pretty deep is what I’m saying.”
The initial thrill at just being offered a seat in the pinnacle of racing has worn off and now there’s only one thing on Ricciardo’s mind — a world title.
He said by this stage of his career — which jumped to a new level in 2014 when he joined Red Bull — he would have expected at least one championship. But Ricciardo’s F1 trophy cabinet is lacking, which he admits is “underwhelming”.
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Ricciardo thinks of nothing else but winning when he plugs himself in on race day.Source:Getty Images
Still, as one of the most highly regarded drivers on the grid, the West Australian has come a long way from the baby-faced youngster who arrived on the scene with a toothy grin.
Ricciardo still boasts the most recognisable smile in racing and his pearly whites still get plenty of airtime, but he no longer gets bullied on the track because of his personality, which happened when he first started his F1 career.
If anything, his reputation as the larrikin on the grid ended up playing into his hands as he lured rivals into a false sense of security the more experienced he became.
“At first I felt other competitors would take advantage of me being the nice guy,” Ricciardo said. “Especially when I got into F1 it was like, ‘He’s too nice, we’re going to bully him on the track’ and I think they did for the first six months.
“I felt like that was going to be a reputation that was going to stay with me unless I quickly adapted.
“Then it was really 2014 when I felt everyone was still saying, ‘He’s got a fast car now but he’s still a soft touch’ and I could play to that and surprise them on track.
“That’s where these dummy overtakes, these lunges, I feel I really caught everyone by surprise and that was very powerful for me.
“I know what I’m capable of. Even know I’m smiling, but I’m quietly killing with a smile. It’s good.”
Ricciardo finished a disappointing ninth in the drivers’ standings last year but will be hopeful of getting 2020 off to a bright start at the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne on March 15.
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