Australian GP 2022: Daniel Ricciardo gives upgraded Albert Park circuit the thumbs up

Cautious not to oversell the new-look track, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was still beaming in his assessment of a turn at Albert Park as McLaren finished on the right side of the timesheets.

Australian star Daniel Ricciardo has renewed confidence McLaren can take another step forward and he can push into the top 10 at the Australian Grand Prix after what he rated as a “good day” in practice.

As he gave the new-look and “fun” Albert Park circuit his endorsement, Ricciardo said it was nice to be on the right side of the timesheets after finishing in the top 10 in both practice sessions.

Hitting the track at his home Grand Prix for the first time in three years — and the first time for McLaren — Ricciardo was eighth and 10th fastest in the two practice sessions.

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Daniel Ricciardo takes the first turn in his McLaren during a practice for the Australian Grand Prix. Picture: Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo takes the first turn in his McLaren during a practice for the Australian Grand Prix. Picture: Getty Images

His McLaren teammate Lando Norris was fifth and eighth in more encouraging signs for McLaren after a difficult start to the season.

Ricciardo finished 14th in the opening race of the season in Bahrain before he was forced to retire in the second race in Saudi Arabia after suffering an engine failure.

But the eight-time Grand Prix winner said the car’s practice form had given him more confidence for the weekend.

“(It was a) decent day, realistically with our expectations and where we think we will be, it’s been a good day,” Ricciardo said.

“I think with the medium (tyre) I felt good, if we can make the same amount on the soft I’ll be happy with where we are.

“Both sessions I think were top 10 so hopefully we can keep that going tomorrow.

“I think we found a good set this afternoon.

“It was nice to be on the right side of the timesheets.

“Hopefully the crowd enjoyed the first day of F1 back here in Melbourne.”

Getting a taste of the changes to the Albert Park track lay-out for the first time, Ricciardo described the upgraded track as “fun”.

Ricciardo slides into his seat of his car for practice session two at Albert Park. Picture: David Caird
Ricciardo slides into his seat of his car for practice session two at Albert Park. Picture: David Caird

“I did (enjoy the new track). It was fun, some corners are very similar,” he said.

“Turn 6 is my favourite, it’s very fast and it’s banked as well, you exit onto the kerb, it’s just a fun corner. I think all the drivers will enjoy that.

“Turn 11 is different, much more square, and bumpy at the apex so a bit more challenging, but happy with the track, hopefully stay inside the top 10 and have a good weekend.

“It will be better, is it going to be 10 times better, probably not to that extent. But I think it will be some degree better. I think also complimented by an extra DRS zone, the cars can follow a bit better this year.

“If there’s not more overtaking, I think we will see at least more closer racing.

“I’m cautious not to oversell it because I honestly don’t know what the fact will be. Main thing today was it was enjoyable driving.”

The Australian says he has confidence in the McLaren are two solid sessions. Picture: AFP
The Australian says he has confidence in the McLaren are two solid sessions. Picture: AFP

Earlier, Ricciardo set himself an early target of reaching the top 10 in qualifying at his home Grand Prix, but his teammate Lando Norris said he was not expecting “any magical things” from the McLaren car in Melbourne.

Ricciardo said the way the cars responded at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix had given him more encouragement.

“I always have a good level of, let’s say, inner confidence,” Ricciardo said.

“But we have had Bahrain, we were not competitive, in a week from that we went to Saudi and we showed more competitiveness so that was really just a track dependant thing.

“Hopefully this circuit, I think it does lean more towards a Saudi lay-out than a Bahrain one and I think it will help us a little bit at the moment where we currently are.

“Let’s try qualifying Q3, that will be out first for the year. That’s a target.”

Ricciardo’s warning for fans as reality bites

Daniel Ricciardo has set himself a simple early target of reaching Q3 at his home Grand Prix as his teammate Lando Norris warned he was not expecting “any magical things” from the McLaren car in Melbourne.

Ahead of Friday’s opening practice sessions at Albert Park, the Australian star appeared upbeat in a morning press conference as declared he had a good level of “inner confidence” after a challenging start to the Formula One season.

Ricciardo finished 14th in the opening race of the season in Bahrain before he was forced to retire in the second race in Saudi Arabia after suffering an engine failure.

Daniel Ricciardo is confident but not cocky ahead of his home Grand Priz. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo is confident but not cocky ahead of his home Grand Priz. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Asked how he felt about McLaren’s prospects in Melbourne, Ricciardo said the way the cars responded at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – which he expects to be more similar to the Albert Park track – had given him more encouragement.

Norris finished seventh in Saudi Arabia and both cars had been in track for a points finish before Ricciardo’s retirement.

“I always have a good level of, let’s say, inner confidence,” Ricciardo said.

“But we have had Bahrain, we were not competitive, in a week from that we went to Saudi and we showed more competitiveness so that was really just a track dependant thing.

“Hopefully this circuit, I think it does lean more towards a Saudi lay-out than a Bahrain one and I think it will help us a little bit at the moment where we currently are.

“Let’s try qualifying Q3, that will be out first for the year. That’s a target.”

Daniel Ricciardo is hoping the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit drives akin to the Saudi track. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo is hoping the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit drives akin to the Saudi track. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Ricciardo’s teammate Norris was less confident of a swift McLaren turnaround in form, saying he did not expect the car to suddenly “come alive” in Melbourne.

“We will have to wait and see,” Norris said.

“It’s a bit of the unknown. It’s a new track, so we do have to genuinely see what it is going to be like. I hope it is a little bit more in line with what it was like in Saudi compared with Bahrain because Saudi was a much better weekend.

“But we have not brought any updates or upgrades or anything and we didn’t for Saudi, it’s just the difference in track showed how much the car can perform when it’s in a better performance window and how much of a struggle it is when it’s not in that window.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a bit more like Saudi, especially with the updates to the track it’s a bit quicker and hopefully that plays a little bit more into our favour.

“But I’m not expecting any magical things or the car to come alive all of a sudden so it’s still going to be a tough weekend.

“But, of course, we’re hoping for Q3 there was potential for a double points finish and hopefully we can make amends for that this weekend.”

RICCIARDO’S INSANE F1 TRAINING REGIMEN REVEALED

They drive some of the most hi-tech machinery on the planet, but Formula One drivers themselves have to be perfectly tuned athletes.

They need to be strong and fit enough to withstand intense G-forces and searing cockpit temperatures while maintaining the concentration required to make split-second, life and death decisions at high-speed.

There is a lot that goes into the training and race preparation of an F1 driver.

Daniel Ricciardo’s performance coach, Michael Italiano, reveals what goes into the McLaren star’s training and race weekend preparation ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.


The Aussie star is racing back home for the first time in three years.
The Aussie star is racing back home for the first time in three years.

TRAINING

The three most important areas Italiano focuses on in his work with Ricciardo are strength fitness, cardiovascular fitness and neck training.

One of the most physically punishing aspects of driving a Formula One car is the huge G-forces generated by the cars.

G-force – or gravitational force – is a measurement of the type of force on a body as a result of acceleration or gravity. F1 cars can generate 5G while braking and while cornering.

The neck cops the brunt of the load. Italiano will spend more time training the neck than any other part of the body.

“We probably train the neck every second day with a neck harness. That is something that we will start pretty much from day one of pre-season,” Italiano said.

“It is very important. Why you need a strong neck is because you want to keep your head still, especially when you are turning into corners so your eye-line looking into the apex is accurate and still.

“If your head starts wonking around everywhere that’s when you see inaccuracies with drivers driving and driving lines.

“That’s the importance of a strong neck. That being said, you have then also got the G-force, some corners can go up to 4-5G which is like 35kg pushing onto the neck.

“Yes, it only lasts for only one or two seconds but they are doing that for two hours. It’s hard yakka on the neck, so it is important that they keep a strong neck or they will probably lose lap time.”

Daniel Ricciardo won’t have much time to himself this week.
Daniel Ricciardo won’t have much time to himself this week.

Strength training is also critical to counter the stress placed on the drivers’ bodies by the vibrations produced by the car.

The force of the high-speed braking also puts a heavy load on the drivers’ calves and leg muscles, which is another area Italiano focuses on when training Ricciardo.

“We do a lot of strength training, overall body strength, mainly the posterior chains – the back of the body, calves, hamstring, glutes, lower back, upper back – because most of the braking loads are endured through the calves, hamstrings and glutes.

“And also why the body needs to be strong is because they need to fight the vibrations in the car pretty much as well.”

A high level of cardiovascular fitness is also crucial to cope with the searing driver cockpit temperatures.

Italiano and Ricciardo will do acclimation training for the races in the hotter environments.

“That is extremely important. I think we have a bit of an advantage coming from Perth, we are used to being in hot weather,” Italiano said.

“But that is probably another emphasis that we use heading into some hotter climates throughout the year.” 

Daniel Ricciardo does all his heavy training in the pre-season.
Daniel Ricciardo does all his heavy training in the pre-season.

RACE WEEK

Most of Ricciardo’s heavy training is done over the pre-season and once the season starts training becomes more about maintaining fitness levels.

“Usually on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we will do a little bit, go for a run, do some core work and some strength training,” Italiano said.

“So nothing too big because we have obviously had a big pre-season, so it’s more just trying to maintain that fitness level now rather than trying to hit PBs.

“Now that we are technically in-season, we are just trying to maintain that fitness level.

“You will probably see us doing a bit of fitness training Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then come Thursday onwards it is all about making sure Daniel is prepared to perform.

“So making sure the body is feeling good, stretching, making sure he is getting the right nutrient foods he needs and also to make sure he is sleeping well because his days from Thursday onwards are just go, go, go.”

For the race in Australia, Ricciardo arrived in Perth early to give his body plenty of time to adjust to the time difference.

With 23 races on the Formula One calendar, Italiano said rest and recovery were also critical to navigating the long season.

“With such a busy schedule …. there is a big emphasis on recovery and sleep and also just making sure we can stick to an appropriate jet lag protocol because switching time zones all the time can be very difficult,” he said.

Neck strength is key for an F1 driver.
Neck strength is key for an F1 driver.

RACE DAY

Ricciardo will start his race day with some dynamic stretching before he heads to the track.

After Ricciardo has some commitments with the engineers and marketing team, Italiano will then get some time with him to help prepare him to race.

“I usually get about half an hour with him, so I probably put him through a bit of a massage and just try to get the body feeling nice and good and relaxed and just switching on the muscle fibres,” Italiano said.

“Usually, I will get another half an hour with him before pit lane opens and that’s when we’ll go through a little bit more activation type of work, activating his core and activating the main muscle groups that he is going to be using for the race.

“And then usually when he gets off the grid, so when he does his formation lap and comes out of the car before the national anthem, we usually go in the garage and work on a bit of reflex training and get him quick and sharp for a nice race launch.”

Some of the activation training will involve the use of fit lights to help with reaction time and reflexes, critical when making split-second decisions at high-speed.

“I use fit lights and they are pretty much reaction lights and I program them as the red lights, so using familiarity with them,” Italiano said.

“Obviously he is reacting to a red light, which is the same as what he is reacting to when he is on the grid. There are a few things that we do just to sharpen him up with the fit lights.”

Ricciardo gets his mental preparation right on race day.
Ricciardo gets his mental preparation right on race day.

DIET AND HYDRATION

Drivers can lose an average of 2kg during a race and even more during the races in the hotter climates, so hydration is critical.

Ricciardo’s hydrating process will typically start the night before a race and on race day, he will start drinking fluids as soon as he wakes.

He will drink between three-four litres ahead of a race to ensure he is adequately hydrated.

“His hydration starts the night before but usually in the morning is a good habit just to start drinking upon waking,” Italiano said.

“On race day as he wakes, we usually get him to grab a drink bottle with some hydrolytes straight away and just start hydrating.

“It depends on the climate and the race we are at, but I would say (he would drink) around three or four litres and on average he is losing maybe up to 2 kgs of body weight.

“In the hot races he probably loses more, so like Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Budapest, he probably loses a bit more.

“Then there is also a rehydration protocol after the race.”

During a race weekend, Ricciardo has his favourite staples that he likes to turn to.

“Usually we will go with a rice and black bean burrito, sometimes we go pesto pasta for lunch and then for breakfast we just do avocado on rye toast, or we go for a big vegetable omelette as well,” Italiano said.

“He has his favourites so we kind of stick to what we know works on a race weekend, we don’t try and get too fancy on a race weekend.

“If there is a night race then we will obviously throw in a mid-arvo snack as well.” 

The final moments before a race for Ricciardo.
The final moments before a race for Ricciardo.

MINDSET

It has been a tough start to the Formula One season for Ricciardo but Italiano said his role was to “always stay positive” with the McLaren star.

“It’s a long season, we have been here before, unfortunately, where we have had a slow start, so there is no extra noise in our camp,” Italiano said.

“Essentially, it is important that his external environment stays positive and also reinforces the same journey and the same goal that we have all set out to do.

“It’s more so just get on with it and look forward to the next race. At the end of the day if you keep over-thinking these things you can go on a bit of a rollercoaster when it comes to motorsport because there are so many contingencies out of your can’t control. So always just focus on what you can control.

“That’s part of being a coach. One, being a sounding board, but also making sure that he is on the right path and in the right mindset.

“But there are times where as athletes you are an aggressive competitor, so you are going to be disappointed and I think that’s OK to give them time to vent and be disappointed and analyse the situation.

“But after 24 hours is over, the Formula One circuit doesn’t wait for you, it comes around quickly so you have got to focus your attention on the next race ahead.”


Originally published as Australian GP 2022: Daniel Ricciardo gives upgraded Albert Park circuit the thumbs up