Daniel Ricciardo is one Formula 1 race away from ending his five-year run with Red Bull Racing. Before that it was a partial season with the old HRT team and two years with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso.
During that run, Ricciardo has started 149 races, won seven, sat on the podium 29 times and captured three poles. He's finished as high as third (2014) in the Formula 1 drivers' championship and sits sixth this season.
Ahead of his move from Red Bull to Renault, we caught up with the 29-year-old Australian driver to get his take on the state of the series, simulators and what he like might like to try down the road.
Autoweek: So, you’re known for your passing. What are some of your favorite tracks for overtaking?
Daniel Ricciardo: Hand on heart, Circuit of the Americas is my favorite track for overtaking. This and Monza are probably my best overtakes. Turn 1 is so wide. The ideal race line is to stay wide and come back. There’s so much room on the inside you can go so late and stuff it in, and that’s not that common in many circuits we go to, so you can surprise a lot of guys.
AW: Some Americans will tune out of Formula 1 because there’s not 80 lead changes in the race. In your mind, is that a problem or something that is endemic of Formula 1?
DR: I think it’s always been there, but I think part of it is a problem for sure. Even us as drivers we get a bit bored. There’s been races this year where I’ve been faster than the guy in front of me but because of aerodynamics and downforce I can’t get by unless he makes a mistake. I can certainly see how it can be a bit frustrating. They’re trying to figure out how to make that better. They’re changing the front wing next year aerodynamically there trying to allow us to follow. I would love to have more overtakes.
AW: Rules are going to change in 2021. What are the changes that you would like to see to make it better?
DR: I’d like to have the engines louder like they used to be. That creates the atmosphere. I think when you pay to come to a race and see it live, part of the experience is the noise. Aerodynamically, make the cars be more raceable. I don’t mind if it means we go a couple seconds a lap slower but let us be able to race.
AW: It seems like the feedback this year is when they changed the aero package of Indy cars is that they could hustle the cars a little bit more, and that’s something the fans respond to.
DR: Absolutely, and that’s another thing with having so much downforce on the car. Cornering speeds are amazing, and sitting alongside the track it looks friggin' unreal. But on the onboard it doesn’t look that challenging because you’re not fighting it. So, yeah, there’s a lot of things with downforce. It hurts overtaking, but it also hurts the viewers perception about how hard we’re actually working for it. I’d love the performance gap between the engines to be closer. More cars would always be better. If there was 30 that would be cool, but 20-plus is OK. The more the merrier.
AW: Have you been in a modern Indy car?
DR: I haven’t. I’d like to try. A street circuit for sure, I’d love to. An oval, I might test on. Not sure I’d like to race on an oval — scares the shit out of me.
AW: How good are the simulators getting now?
DR: Pretty good. It’ll never be the real thing. I’ll never dedicate a race victory to the work I do on the simulator. But they can help in learning a track and setting a car up. For us, to do a mechanical change it might take 15 minutes. In a simulator you can do it in 10 seconds. So, we can do a whole list of this. So, you can learn quite a lot. If 100 percent is the real car, simulator might be at 80 percent. Something like a PlayStation game is about 20 percent, so they’re pretty good.
Are you spending more time in the simulator today versus a few years ago?
DR: Not really, I definitely spent more when I first got into F1. I think it was more boredom for me than learning. To be honest, now I go on there if the engineer wants me. If the simulator blew up tomorrow I would not be too disappointed.
AW: What is one of your favorite places and one of the best energies that you’ve gotten from a city?
DR: On the racing calendar, these two weeks are one of my two favorites. I love Austin, I love the food and the music, whether its something on Sixth Street or something in a shitty little bar down on the east side somewhere. I love it all. And then Mexico — as far as an energy that’s crazy. It’s an insanely populated city. The Mexicans are passionate people, and with the air horns and doing what they do that’s cool. These two honestly are two of the best.
AW: Are there any other series you’d like to do?
DR: I loved watching NASCAR growing up. The Daytona 500 would be something I’d love to race. As far as ovals go, I might think about doing an oval with a roof on my head. I’m passionate about motorbikes, but I don’t ride … I wouldn’t be capable of doing that. Bathurst would be awesome, so there’s a few, but to be honest once I finish up here in F1 I’ll probably be quite burnt out from racing. I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t do any other racing after that, but all these guys that do it seem to come back to it one way or another, so we’ll see. Hopefully, I do enough of a stint here that I feel like I’m done and that I’ve put everything into it and I don’t feel a need to do anything else. I would at least like to test something. I went the NASCAR last year in Dallas and a few guys offered a test, so I’d at least take that up.
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