Daniel Ricciardo’s testing duties for the Toro Rosso outfit will take precedence ahead of his championship duties in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, with the Australian confirming that he will miss the season’s opening round in order to drive in Friday practice for the Red Bull sister team.
Ricciardo’s pressure places enormous pressure on the team’s established driver line-up of Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi, as the Perth-born clocks up more miles in the Ferrari-powered STR6 in more Friday practice sessions.
The 21-year-old made his maiden Grand Prix appearance in front of his home crowd, and he will drive for Toro Rosso again at next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Speaking in an interview on his personal website, Ricciardo confirmed he would also drive at the following Chinese Grand Prix, the same weekend that he was set to kickstart a crack at the Formula Renault 3.5 title in Spain.
“It’s great to get more F1 time, and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity, but it just means I’m going to have to work a bit harder to win the title this year.”
Ricciardo had a competitive Friday practice debut, posting lap times close to Buemi in the opening ninety-minute session before handing over the cockpit to its usual occupant, Alguersuari.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with it; I knew I couldn’t expect too much. It was a pretty steep learning curve – the circuit was new to me, the track wasn’t really dialled into fast laps and you don’t get that many laps in first practice.
“I thought I could have done a bit more, but it’s kind of the nature of first practice – it’s not a qualifying session – but maybe there was more in the bag. I brought it home in one piece though, which was a pretty important box ticked!
Despite the limited time behind the wheel, he was thrilled with the experience.
“With Bahrain being cancelled, it slowly dawned on me that my first Friday practice would be at home in Australia and it did make it extra special. I was ready to go out there and put on a good show for the home crowd.
“[Being in my home country] I got quite a lot of attention … And obviously it was quite different to last year – this time I was actually in the car, rather than just sitting in catering and eating all the food!”
And speaking of food, one of his most enjoyable PR activities that weekend was spending time with his compatriot Mark Webber at a barbeque breakfast for the F1 media.
“I learned quite a lot from him as I did last year as well,” Ricciardo added.
“On the Wednesday before the race weekend we had a bit of an event together on the beach. It was pretty good fun and its good to see how Mark handles himself; he knows what he’s doing. You’ve got to try and enjoy these events and make them worthwhile for the people who come to see you, but at the same time, you have to hold part of yourself back so that you know you will still be fresh and ready to go when you get in the car on Friday.”
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