Daniel, you won three races last year but perhaps your best performance came in Abu Dhabi. Fair assessment?
Honestly yeah, I think it really was my best weekend of 2014. It wasn’t a win but I nailed qualifying, I nailed the race, I nailed the whole thing. Pace, consistency, everything was awesome and it got me from the back of the grid to fourth, so yes, in terms of pure performance, it was my best race.
Yas Marina isn’t an obvious Daniel Ricciardo happy place – but you like the circuit more than we’d expect…
I do. I like the last sector in particular because that turns it into an exciting track. It’s twisty and you get right up close with the walls. You also have to contend with your tyres going off because the start of the lap is so fast – by the third sector you’re really having to manage your rubber. It’s… a challenge.
What does twilight racing bring to the party?
I think starting in the sun and ending in the dark is pretty cool. Actually I think the whole atmosphere of the weekend is pretty cool. Lots of Aussies make the trip, lots of Europeans and there’s a really good multicultural scene. Lots of boat parties in the marina, lots of fun. I do like Abu Dhabi.
What’s your plan after Abu Dhabi?
I’ll probably stay out for a few days and do some riding in the desert. I did that after Bahrain too and it was good fun.
Cars? Horses? Camels?
Bikes! I do enjoy the UAE. I love the heat, and the whole outdoor lifestyle. It’s great for dirt bikes, buggies, whatever. There’s not really any rules, you can ride where you like. I’ll have some fun.
Final round – Abu Dhabi. It’s a circuit that has some particularly good memories for you isn’t it?
I generally enjoy most tracks and in one way or another they all have good associations but yes, it’s particularly the case at Yas Marina because I won the GP3 championship there. I had a good qualifying there last year. I was fifth on the grid I think but the race didn’t work out so well as I had to retire with an engine problem. Still, it’s been enjoyable. It’s a good track to drive, even if it’s one of the modern ones with the big run-off areas. It’s very technical though and it takes some time to get your head around it. Do that and you’ll get a good lap, but it’s not as easy as it looks.
What do you recall about that GP3 win in 2013, standing on the podium at Yas?
Two things: the first is that winning always feels great and the second is that it’s actually the last race that I won, so it’s a bloody long time ago! I’d really like to change that. I miss that feeling a lot.
It is the last race of the season and for most of the paddock that comes with a definite ‘schools out’ feeling. Do you get that too?
Actually, it’s a kind of a sad weekend in some ways, because it’s the last race of the season, which for a driver is not great. Sure, you’re mentally tired after a long season but whenever the racing stops there’s a bit of an empty feeling inside. You really miss racing. At least I do. But I’m sure I’ll find some way of having some fun in the winter.