Daniel Ricciardo has declared he will change how he prepares for his home race after saying he was left feeling “flat” and “drained” after a full week of intense publicity.
The Aussie’s threat is a major blow to the Melbourne race, with reports earlier this week suggesting Ricciardo’s popularity was almost solely responsible for the increase in ticket sales forecast for the 2019 Albert Park event.
Ricciardo’s race was all over in the first five seconds as he paid a cruel price for a sloppy drift onto the grass to start the Australian Grand Prix. It was just the tip of the iceberg of his hellish day in Melbourne.
Swerving onto the grass when squeezed wide by Sergio Perez, Ricciardo’s right tyres drifted off the track and that lazy decision cost him everything and ensured his home grand prix curse continued.
He was eventually forced to retire from the race in the 32nd lap after being told to park his Renault car by team engineers as a result of a mechanical problem.
Ricciardo has previously been disqualified in 2014 where he had his first podium finish taken off him because of a fuel rate violation by Red Bull. He’s also been penalised on multiple occasions in Melbourne since then, including a three-place grid penalty last year.
His mid-race retirement was the third time he has been forced to retire in Melbourne.
Despite his race day horror show, Ricciardo had other problems on his mind when speaking to the written press after the race. The 29-year-old described himself as “flat” as he suggested he needs to change his intense preparation for the Australian Grand Prix.
When asked to describe how he felt more than an hour after his race ended, Ricciardo said: “Flat. I feel like it’s hard to get things going well here. I also feel today that I was pretty unlucky.
“I just put two wheels in and the next thing there is a massive gutter there. Or a gutter ditch which I don’t think is in too many other places. It’s tough.
“This week is a tough one because we’re always pushing uphill. You can never do enough. I feel we do more than enough. I don’t want to blame that, but I feel flat for more reasons than one.”
When asked to explain why he is feeling so flat, the former Red Bull star suggested he needs to find an easier way to prepare for the Australian Grand Prix that doesn’t involve as much promotional and media work.
“I’m just drained,” he said. “I try to please everyone this week and I don’t look after myself so we’ll change it for next year, yep.”
He earlier said in a TV interview he was frustrated so much is expected of him when he races Down Under.
“I think we’re too busy pleasing everyone else instead of focusing on ourselves,” Ricciardo said.
“For sure I’m frustrated because everyone expects so much … when the race is over in five seconds I feel preparation is not as it should be.
“We’re trying to please everyone.”
Australian Grand Prix chief executive Andrew Westacott earlier this week said Ricciardo was the reason the grand prix experienced a significant increase in ticket sales over the first days of the event.
“Daniel makes a difference … he’s a hero,” Westacott said.
“I love my sport and I think Daniel is like (basketballer) Ben Simmons, he’s someone who people relate to. I reckon he is capable of gunning for a podium.”
The pressure was also on Ricciardo in qualifying on Saturday where he failed to crack the top 10 and he later apologised to his Aussie fans.
“I race, first and foremost for myself, but part of me was bummed for the crowd,” he said.
“I know they would have loved to see me in Q3. That’s where I felt I came up short, for them.”
Ricciardo said he was at least pleased to see how popular Renault has become in Melbourne since his move from Red Bull.
“I’ve been impressed with how much (Renault) merchandise I’ve seen around,” he said.
“I’m happy Renault is taking some cut from that. I don’t, so hopefully whatever they make from that they’ll put into some new parts on the car.”
That fan frenzy is now exactly what Ricciardo wants to sacrifice in order to focus on performance when he returns to Albert Park in 2020.
But he refused to blame his mental fatigue for his decision to run onto the grass after lights out.
Sky Sports F1 guru Martin Brundle declared he had sympathy for Ricciardo after the Aussie’s front wing was ripped off during a frantic charge to turn one.
Many other commentators were far more scathing of the Aussie’s self-inflicted wound.
“Daniel Ricciardo has had an absolute shocker in his home grand prix,” Sky Sports’ David Croft said.
“I think Daniel Ricciardo was squeezed a bit by Sergio Perez.
“His woes from his home grand prix are continuing onwards.”
Others described Ricciardo’s drift onto the grass as a “choke job”.
CHECK OUT THE INCIDENT IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE