(Austin) Formula 1’s biggest smile is back on the grid once again.
Daniel Ricciardo now wants to produce results befitting his return to AlphaTauri and the coveted banquet for the 2024 season. After getting the chance to save his career earlier this year, the Australian has missed the last five races due to a fracture in his left hand.
But the 34-year-old athlete will be back this week at the US Grand Prix, where he is making a lasting impression by portraying the Texas lifestyle.
“Hey guys! It’s been a long time,” Ricciardo told a group of drivers as he took the stage before the traditional press conferences on Thursday.
“I’m very happy to be back. My hand looks good,” he told reporters afterwards, noting that the fracture that required surgery was more serious than expected. [Ma convalescence] It was more difficult than expected. But I’m probably a coward too. »
Ricciardo often made the Circuit of the Americas – near Austin, the capital of Texas – his personal playground. He’s already taken to the pasture on horseback, imitated a Texas accent during interviews, and donned a University of Texas basketball team uniform during the drivers’ parade.
Ultimately, Ricciardo will have to focus seriously on racing, while his sport has not been kind to him in recent years. Some of the results were painful, both emotionally and physically.
“I consider myself above all a driver, not an artist,” Ricciardo explained. I want to race, and make sure I’m seen as a hungry, determined driver, not just here to have a good time. »
Ricciardo’s best years were at Red Bull, where he scored seven of his eight career victories and finished on the podium twice in Austin, in 2014 and 2016. Two winless seasons with Renault followed, then a spell with McLaren.
Ricciardo took McLaren’s first win in 10 years. But apart from this achievement, he was a disappointment, as he was regularly beaten by his teammate Lando Norris.
His smile gradually lost its lustre, before it disappeared when McLaren bought out his entire contract in the final year.
Red Bull named Ricciardo reserve driver for 2023. Thus he returned to the paddock, a fact that did not fail to fuel his frustration by seeing other drivers on the track. Then came this opportunity that could relaunch his career.
AlphaTauri released rookie Nyck de Vries after 10 races and handed the wheel to Ricciardo. He finished 13thH In Hungary and 16H In Belgium, before he got off the track and broke his hand in the Netherlands.
He again had to watch others take to the track, including New Zealander Liam Lawson who replaced him at AlphaTauri, while he was just a spectator. Lawson was good enough to earn the reserve spot at AlphaTauri next year.
“He’s a young man,” Ricciardo said of Lawson. It’s not like he’s at the end of his career. Keep going to the races, keep your head down. If he continues on this path, his time will come. »
Ricciardo had to get behind the wheel of his car on Thursday, and he quickly revealed a huge smile. He said he’s in good shape and ready to take on Austin’s bumpy track.
“It’s true that it shakes you,” he admitted. But I think I like it. »
The FIA, which governs the sporting side of Formula 1, has increased the maximum amount of fines stewards can impose on drivers from €250,000 to €1 million.
Many surprised pilots wondered what kind of violations could merit this kind of punishment.
“Maybe I cross the path?” said three-time champion Max Verstappen. He was referring to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was fined 50,000 euros (about 73,000 Canadian dollars) for jaywalking after colliding with teammate George Russell during the Qatar Grand Prix.
The FIA announcement did not specify the crimes to which this fine would be applied. However, she explained that the maximum amount of €250,000 (about $363,000 CAD) had not been reviewed in 12 years.
“A million is a huge amount. I don’t know what this could be worth. Some drivers earn less than that!” launched Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
Kevin Magnussen laughed, before Hamilton interjected more seriously: “Charles could give up his watch.”
“If they’re going to impose $1 million in fines, let’s make sure 100% of that goes to legitimate causes. There’s a lot of money in [la course automobile et] There are many reasons in the world. This is the only way they will get this money from me. »
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