When the Australian Grand Prix became the first major world sporting event to collapse because of the coronavirus, the formula one world headed to Europe – Daniel Ricciardo went bush.
In Western Australia, the local boy has made the most of the peace and isolation.
It has been more than 15 years since the Renault racer has spent so much time at home, having left for Europe to pursue a career that has so far yielded seven Grand Prix wins.
Much to the amusement of his social media fans around the world, Ricciardo, 30, has been mixing the freedom of time alone with a diligent fitness regime in lockdown with his long-time personal trainer Michael Italiano.
“I haven’t been this long in Australia since pre-Europe. Since 2006 I wouldn’t have spent this much time in Australia,” Ricciardo told The New Daily from his property this week.
“So there’s positives with that … being closer to family, being on the same time zone as friends, so it’s easier to FaceTime and do these things.
“I’ve definitely made the most of it with routine and structure and training and, you know, consistency with that.
“No distractions. So [I’ll be ready] as we get the green light to race again.”
Ricciardo’s hilarious tractor-driving antics, his home parkour workout and the ability to turn even bin-night into a fitness and co-ordination challenge have all garnered raves on Instagram.
It’s all a long way from the chaotic aftermath of the aborted season-opening GP in Melbourne, where Ricciardo was expected to be the star attraction but soon joined the exodus to avoid the media scrum.
“I was ready to go to sleep Thursday night, literally got into bed and then I got a notification saying McLaren had just withdrawn from the Grand Prix … I knew that it wasn’t going to happen any more.
“The Thursday night was crazy and then really it was just trying to get out of there once we knew there wouldn’t be a race, just to get out of there before it became a bit of a mess
“So it took a few days to let it all sink in, but it was certainly a shame. But in hindsight I think ultimately that [it was] the right decision.”
I’ve enjoyed actually having just a little bit of peace and quiet. Do I miss the racing and the competition and the hustle and bustle? I do, but I also am enjoying this, this kind of a strangeness …
“Just being out on the farm and just not having to worry about what aeroplane tickets to book next.
“I’ve got my trainer and friend Michael out here with me – he’s from Perth as well. So that’s really all we need.
“It’s just us and … we’ve got time on our side. We can really put together a proper program and we can push ourselves.
“I’m very self-motivated. I would say most times I even prefer training alone. I’d love to go running alone and just getting my own space, listen to music and get in my zone.
“I’m missing the racing and I’ve got that bug in me that I just want to go again, so I’m staying ready and, and that’s kind of my driving purpose.”
Asked if there were temptations in being so close to family, including his mum’s home cooking, Ricciardo says he’s maintaining his dietary discipline.
“We’re cooking, we’re cooking ourselves. We don’t have any chef or anything with us, so, we’re just making the most of it and mum will drop off some food every now and then.
“If we have a good day training … it is nice to just put a TV show on and indulge in a season of Ozark.
“Now there’s The Last Dance on. I grew up a Michael Jordan fan, so that’s certainly appealing for me.
“But otherwise, I think I’m quite lucky to be on the farm … I’m not locked in an apartment just with only really my phone or the internet as an escape.
“I’ve even tried to introduce some phone detox days, where you don’t really use your phone because hours can go by and I don’t really want to get indulged too much in that.”
And while many of his younger F1 rivals have taken to simulated motorsport against the best on the internet, Ricciardo thinks he’ll leave that sort of action to his former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman managed to grab a podium in a recent online Supercars event, but Ricciardo says he’ll leave that head-to-head alone until they are back on track – perhaps at Red Bull’s home race in Austria, which looks set to be the season opener on July 5.
“Slim, I’d say [in tackling Max online]. He’s all about the SIM stuff. I wanna say he’s spending more than 50 per cent of his waking day on one. So yeah, I’m not there [against him].
“I just know with my competitive nature, if I got one, I’m going to be spending hours on it a day. And before you know, I’m missing training sessions, racing these Sims and I feel that the training is more productive.”
So for now, Ricciardo’s back to the home gym and the tractor and waiting for the world to get back up to full speed.