Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo may not have walked away a winner after the Melbourne Grand Prix, but his attitude following the disastrous weekend proves why he’s one of Australia’s favourite sportspeople.
The Aussie motorsport’s star consistently shows dignity in defeat and humility in victory.
Going into the opening race of the Formula One 2017 season, Ricciardo remained positive, telling the crowd at the launch of Qunitis Sandalwood last Wednesday that “there are always things you can improve. Racing, I guess it’s like all sports, there’s always more to learn, more to perfect.”
In interviews following the race, which saw the 27-year-old suffer a crash in qualifying, a five-spot penalty due to a gearbox change, and car issues that forced him to miss the first two laps of the main race and eventually retire due to engine failure, the Australian legend expressed his frustrations but also disappointment for his fans.
While the boy from Perth has a reputation for being one of the happiest, most laid back guys on the track, he hasn’t been without his disappointments. A rough 2016 saw a disqualification in the Spanish Grand Prix and then a 40-second pit stop fail in Monaco, where the public saw a rare glimpse of a visibly upset Ricciardo. But just like this weekend, he managed to overcome the defeat and bounce back.
“After Monaco, as miserable as I felt, I still finished second and I still, in many people’s eyes, was the best driver on that weekend, so there was still a lot of positives to take,” he told us following the event last Wednesday.
So how does Ricciardo deal with the highs and lows of the Formula One circus? Well we asked him, and with his big signature grin, he said his answer was simple: “alcohol.”
“Winning; the high is so big that literally by the time I jump in the rental car, when all the media is done and I leave the track… the silence begins, that’s when you come down… So it’s normally on the way to the hotel or the airport.
“And the loss… I think being around friends helps you kind of forget about it for a bit, and also, for me, just perspective.
“There are so many worse things happening out there, I don’t want to be a spoilt kid’. I never want to be that person, so perspective is a big one.”
Naturally, that’s not always easy being so far away from family and friends, still back home in Perth. But Ricciardo said dealing with homesickness is just part of the Formula One parcel.
“When I first left to go to Europe, the first year was the toughest one,” he said.
“For me, it was like whenever I was getting upset or having thoughts about missing home or friends, I kind of always looked at the big picture… I work hard now, do the job and it’ll pay off.
“Also, when I was racing, I was having so much fun it outweighed the sadness of being alone… I kind of always just had my eyes on the prize of making it to Formula One.”
As for dealing with the danger of Formula One, Ricciardo said it’s something they consider, but it’s all part of the thrill of the sport.
“It’s still dangerous, but for us, I think as a kid that was part of the attraction, that little bit of danger, that fear it puts in you, it creates that adrenalin and excitement.
“After the accident with Jul (Jules Bianchi who passed away in an accident in 2015), it reiterated the risk we do take...
“There’s no point taking these risks if you’re only doing it half-heartedly. I feel since then I’ve become more appreciative of the position I’m in, but also I’m a harder racer and I’m just like ‘well if we’re doing that I want to wear my heart on my sleeve and go all out and say that at least I gave it everything’.”
He may not have had the best start to the 2017 season, but Ricciardo is a winner in our eyes.