With the 2018 Formula 1 season about to start at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, crowd favourite driver Daniel Ricciardo is “pumped” and eyeing a podium in front of his home crowd.
Speaking at a media event hosted by Aston Martin Red Bull Racing partner TAG Heuer, the 28-year-old shared his hope that Red Bull can close the gap to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari and bring back some much needed excitement to the sport, saying he’s “getting bored of it [Mercedes domination] as well”.
Although he concedes Mercedes “is still really quick”, Ricciardo is hopeful this year will be more competitive.
“I think we’re all pretty close,” he said, when asked how competitive Red Bull Racing will be against last year’s championship frontrunners, Mercedes and Ferrari.
“They [Mercedes] didn’t really show their true pace in testing as far as lap times go. But everyone knew that they weren’t running low fuel and even when they were setting good times they had a harder tyre than everyone else.
“I think Lewis will be quick again. We’ll see if Valtteri wakes up and performs; he’ll be close. Sometimes,” he said, having a dig at the Finn’s rather inconsistent first year with the Silver Arrows.
“I think we’re still the top three teams. Hopefully we’re more compressed than last year and it’s not clearly Mercedes then Ferrari then us.”
The Australian, who finds the pressure and lead-up to race day “motivating”, has a clear goal for this weekend’s race.
“I’d love to stand on the podium somewhere, that would be awesome.”
But taking the top step and winning his first Australian Grand Prix would be a dream come true for the Perth-born crowd favourite.
“I’ve never done drugs, but [it would be like] something along those lines I’m sure,” is how he imagines it will feel.
“I think it would be firstly a massive relief because no one’s ever done it, and it would be nice to get that done. It would probably take me back to my childhood memories of being here, watching and dreaming of the moment.
“Then actually living it would be pretty cool. I’m sure it would be a pretty surreal experience and I’d be floating with happiness.”
Now in his fifth year with the Milton Keynes outfit, Ricciardo has five race wins under his belt and a signature podium celebration: the shoey. This ritual, which sees him and an unsuspecting victim drink champagne from his racing boot, is set to be bigger than ever should he take victory at Sunday’s race.
“I’d make it last long,” he quipped. “It wouldn’t be quick. I’d ask the second and third for their bottles as well and I’ll go through them all, so you’ll carry me off the podium.”
Image via Aston Martin Red Bull Racing