Daniel Ricciardo continued to create the headlines ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix by welcoming new safety moves and standing up against world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The Australian said he was happy to have his chance to test Red Bull’s new and controversial cockpit protection design in Friday’s opening practice session in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
And the Perth racer, whose newly-cropped hair has attracted attention this season, also stood up against Hamilton – who has made clear he believes F1® should continue to be a traditional open cockpit test of courage – by declaring it was time for everyone to prepare to embrace change.
Ricciardo is also hoping, he said, to challenge Hamilton and both the Mercedes and Ferrari teams on track as well as off it.
On the eve of the third running of a Russian race at the Sochi Autodrom on the shores of the Black Sea, Ricciardo revealed he was to have the ‘Aeroscreen’ fitted to his car for his installation lap on Friday.
"I will drive in FP1 – I’ll do an installation lap with it," said Ricciardo. "I'm sure I will get a lot of TV time in the first two minutes of the session so I'd better comb my hair in the morning!
"It is quite a structure. It is going to affect the aero’ and all that, but it's really just to see if it works and then we'll get on with our programme. We have a few things to try on the car and we want to keep making good progress.”
The Red Bull device was designed to be different and more attractive than the ‘halo’ structure devised and tested by Ferrari, but it received the same slamming from defending three-time champion Hamilton.
“If they're going to do this, they have got to do it properly,” said the Englishman, who is desperate to end a run of six races without a win by completing a hat-trick of Sochi successes in Sunday’s race.
“I’d prefer they tried to close the cockpit like a fighter jet. That screen, for me, is like something from... Well, it looks like a shield that the police use -- a riot shield. You've got this cool, elegant, futuristic F1® car, and you've got a crappy riot shield sitting on top of it.”
Hamilton, who trails his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 36 points after just three races this year – all won by the German – added that he wanted F1® to retain its air of danger.
“When I get in my car I know that there is a danger," he explained. “That's been the same since I was eight years old, and that's a risk that I am willing to take.
“And that's the risk that every single driver who has ever got in a car has been willing to take… The reason you look at F1®, as a kid, is that ‘these guys, they're crazy they could die at any moment’.
“Everyone who comes to me, who's just started watching F1®, they go 'it's so dangerous’…. And that's a large part of why they are so in awe of what you do.
“You take away all that, and that person could do it, almost. What's the point if anyone can do it?"
Hamilton’s reaction was the opposite to that of Ricciardo.
The Aussie, seeking this weekend to maintain or improve on the form that has seen him finish fourth in the last three races, said: “
"I think you've got to be open to a bit of change," he said. "Obviously it's different, but in 2009 the cars changed quite a lot – and I thought they were ugly as hell – but you got used to them and they refined them.
"Now they look sort of normal again. If it's the same for everyone you'll adapt to it as a fan at least.
“I know everyone is used to seeing helmets – the only part of a driver that the spectator can see, but if this saves one life in the next 20 years, then I’ll take that.”
Hamilton remained focus on his challenge. “I have got to get a result – I can’t let Nico pull further away,” he said. “But the main thing is that I need a trouble-free weekend.”