Daniel Ricciardo keeps his excitement in check after a stellar day at Albert Park.
Will Dan Ricciardo sleep well tonight? You bet!
On the most exciting day of his 50-race F1 career to date, the 24-year-old West Australian came of age as a Formula 1 driver when he planted his car on the front row for Sunday’s 2014 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
But the bubbly Ricciardo told the post-race gathering of journalists he would have no trouble catching some shut-eye before his first-ever front-row start – his previous best qualifying position with the ‘junior’ Red Bull team Toro Rosso was fifth.
“I’ve been sleeping well,” he explained after a hectic week in the spotlight. “I’ve been pretty worn out by the end of the day with all the extra-curricular activities I’ve been doing. I got to Oz over a week ago, had time to get over jet lag, so I’m sure I’ll sleep well again tonight.”
“It’s a pretty late start tomorrow so I don’t have to set any alarms. She’ll be right!”
On the weekend where he races for the first time as successor to Mark Webber in the most coveted seat in F1, Ricciardo equalled his compatriot’s best qualifying performance in his home race – and it was so nearly a maiden pole.
In the dying seconds of a thrilling third segment of the qualifying hour Ricciardo twice topped the timing screens until pre-race favourites Mercedes knocked him off, first through Nico Rosberg and finally through pole-winner Lewis Hamilton.
“Really excited, but at the same time still staying calm and collected,” insisted Ricciardo – though he was having a harder time controlling the trademark grin than the Red Bull RB10 that carried him to the top three.
“There’s no point having a party tonight, we’ve got to focus on the race. But speaking solely of today it’s a pretty good day for us.”
Ricciardo had earlier stayed calm through a tricky hour, complicated by heavy rain and a greasy track on which his teammate, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, failed to make it into the final qualifying shoot-out for the first time since 2012.
“We were all fearing how difficult these animals would be in these conditions and it’s always a handful, but it was quite nice behind the wheel,” was how he summed it all up.
“I heard all the crowd on my slow-down lap, but all I can say is I hope I hear that tomorrow.”
“It does a lot of good things for the confidence,” added Ricciardo, “but it’s just the start. I can’t get ahead of myself – I’ve still got a bit to prove. It would be great to be up here for the next few weekends and cement myself at the front of the grid. This is definitely a step towards that.”
Hamilton, World Champion in 2008 and now a three-time pole-sitter at Albert Park, expressed no surprise at finding a different Australian alongside him in a post-qualifying press conference.
“Not at all,” he said. “He’s shown some great performances in recent years and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s very talented so it’s expected to be honest.
“Red Bull have been at the top for some time so you have to assume that this year they’re going to be close to us, but without a doubt today he did an exceptional job.”