The day after he was confirmed as Scuderia Toro Rosso's new F1 driver, we caught up with Daniel Ricciardo at his home in Perth, Australia…
Daniel Ricciardo has spent the past two years with Red Bull Racing learning the ropes in F1 but now the Australian driver – a former Red Bull Junior – will join fellow rising star Jean-Eric Vergne at Italy's Red Bull team, Scuderia Toro Rosso. The two young guns replace Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari.
Here's what Daniel had to say…
Congratulations on joining Scuderia Toro Rosso. How does it feel?
It feels amazing! It’s nice going into next season knowing what I’m doing and being able to focus solely on that. I am looking forward to working with a good group of people that I've already spent a lot of time with this year. There’s plenty to look forward to in 2012.
How did you find out you had the drive?
I was at home. It was after dinner when the phone call came. It was short, sharp and to the point, but it contained all the news I wanted to hear. It's an awesome Christmas present and a big relief. I was with my mum and dad at the time and when I came out of my room and told them the news it felt pretty special.
Since the final race of 2011 in Brazil, were you concerned you might not have a drive for 2012?
Until something is done you are always going to be a little concerned, but I know everyone at Red Bull is looking after my interests and I felt I had done a good enough job this year for them to try and find me a seat. I had faith that something would come through.
You’ve had a busy year, starting out driving Free Practice 1 and then actually racing in the last 11 grand prix. What lessons have you learned?
Looking back, I did more travelling than ever before and I found out it can be really tiring and takes it out of you. So I learned how important it is to be on time and to manage my time as efficiently as possible and to rest when I can. There was so much to take in this year. As a reserve driver you see everything the job involves, but it's not until you are actually racing that you realise the demands it puts on you. That was an important lesson. I also learned to get my priorities right and not waste my energy.
How well do you know your new team-mate, Jean-Eric Vergne?
Pretty well. We were signed up as part of the Red Bull Junior team on the same day and we were team-mates back then, in the Renault 2.0 series. I spent some time with him at his house in France, going karting. We had a good relationship by the standards of racing driver team-mates. As we progressed, the rivalry got stronger, but the important thing is that we respect each other. We both want to beat each other more than anyone else and it’s been like that since we first raced together. It’s a good thing and means we will get the most out of the equipment we are given. Next year will be a real test for both of us.
When will you be coming back to Europe?
I have spoken to Laurent [Mekies, Chief Engineer at Toro Rosso] and we are putting together a pre-season programme now. I imagine that very early in the new year I will have to abandon the Australian summer and head for freezing Italy and get down to business.
It means you’ve got a great motivation to push yourself hard in winter training.
Yes, my trainer told me I could take it easy until Christmas, but once I heard the drive was mine I wanted to go out and bash myself up in the gym.
Having signed up, does it mean you can have some input on the technical side of next year’s car?
Yes, there are some areas where we can start early. For example, there are different options for my position in the cockpit and the layout of the steering wheel and the team has already asked me about my preferences for this. So coming into testing I should be comfortable and feel like the car is mine.