Daniel Ricciardo says he is drained and will be ‘looking after himself’ in the lead up to next year’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Asked how he was feeling after his disastrous start to the F1 season in Melbourne on Sunday, the Australian sighed and admitted: “Flat, Flat”.
“I feel it is hard to get things going well here.”
It’s not the first time Ricciardo, 29, has spent the lead-up to his home race in a whirlwind of promotional appearances and interviews.
But it is the first time he’s conceded that the demands may have compromised his performance.
And it is not as if he has not endured some shocking luck at Albert Park with his former team Red Bull.
In 2013 he had the thrill of finishing second only to be disqualified on a fuel technicality, while in 2017 his crash in qualifying cruelled his race chances and ended in a DNF.
“On the plus side, I’m getting out of here,” was his response to that year’s setback, before softening the blow.
“It has been a long week … I feel bad for everyone, for the fans.”
And that is perhaps the problem – Ricciardo the racer can’t quite quit affable Daniel, knockabout bloke.
On Sunday night he did try to skip out of his media duties quickly, doing international television interviews in a fenced-off area before retreating to the Renault hospitality tent where he was coaxed out by local media to offer yet more explanations.
In a city where it’s almost impossible to speak to a 22-year-old half-back flanker from a mid-table AFL team, that Ricciardo did relent showed how genuinely he takes his role as Australia’s foremost F1 ambassador.
Yes, he was flat, but there was also bemusement at why, when squeezed wide by SportsPesa’s Sergio Perez in the frantic race start, that his Renault bottomed out in a ditch on one of the fastest parts of the circuit.
“I also feel that that was pretty unlucky,” he said.
“I just put two wheels in and next minute there is a massive gutter there, or ditch, which I don’t feel is on many other places.
“It is what it is, but yeah it’s tough.
“I feel like this week is a tough one because we are always pushing uphill and you can never do enough, but I feel that we do more than enough.
“I don’t know … I don’t want to blame that, but I feel flat for more reasons than one.”
Ricciardo had qualified 12th, behind teammate Nico Hulkenberg and he said his move to the right at the start was caused by Perez’s slow start.
“Sergio’s start wasn’t great. I saw I had a bit of a run, He made like a little flinch. But when it happens that quick, so you see him move, so I moved but then he straightens up and then the next thing I’m on the grass,” Ricciardo said.
“I thought I still had enough momentum to stay beside him, but then obviously that ditch was there and that was it.”
The impact with the gutter smashed his front wing and underside of his car, forcing him to limp back to the pits for a replacement.
The Renault got back out on track in 20th – last – place.
By lap 31 – just as his former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen was passing Sebastian Vettel to claim third place – it was all over.
Renault asked Ricciardo to retire the car, although after the race he was still not sure whether it was a problem with the underside or a mechanical precaution that signals more trouble ahead.
That Hulkenberg finished seventh will at least give Ricciardo hope that the Renault has a good base of mid-field pace to build on as 2019 progresses.
Out front, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas threw down a huge challenge to his world championship teammate Lewis Hamilton, putting in some stunning lap times and winning the race at Albert Park.
The Mercedes one-two again exposed Ferrari’s inability to match its rival for speed. Vettel ended the day fourth, with the Italian team’s new driver Charles Leclerc a solid fifth.
Bottas was thrilled with his performance, saying on track immediately after winning that he’d pushed hard to beat his teammate.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “It was definitely my best race ever. Everything was under control.”
Back outside the Renault hospitality tent, Ricciardo was still in control, but ready to call it a day and a week.
“[I’m] just drained,” he said. “Just tried to please everyone this week and don’t look after myself. So we’ll change it for next year.”