Formula One 2017

Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo loves his racing – and his rugby

Red Bull ace makes a lightning-quick trip to Hong Kong to help promote the rugby sevens on his way to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix where he hopes to ‘set things right’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 6:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 10:47am

Red Bull racing ace Daniel Ricciardo can probably be forgiven for thinking he’d rather be cooling his heels at the Hong Kong Sevens than facing a pressure cooker situation at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

It’s a pity the Formula One star can’t choose both events as he returns to the business side of things – and the intense racing that comes with it – at the Shanghai international circuit, where he hopes to mount a serious comeback after his nightmare start to the season at last month’s Australian Grand Prix.

“I’d like to do both but I’ve only got one choice – yes, Shanghai for me,” said Ricciardo, when asked which event he’d rather be at. “But I’ve only heard good things about it [Hong Kong Sevens]. I heard it’s a fun event, a good atmosphere and it’s starting to become a big name around the world.

“I love all sports. Growing up in Australia, we watch many sports. Rugby is obviously a big one, Australian Rules Football. I love UFC, mixed martial arts, pure competition is great.”

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The 27-year-old Australian made a lightning-quick visit to Hong Kong to help promote TAG Heuer – the official timekeeper, sponsor and partner of the Hong Kong Sevens and official watch of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series.

The closest Ricciardo got to becoming part of the rugby sevens action was playing a “fun challenge” on Wednesday with school children at Repulse Bay.

He worked up a bit of a sweat in the afternoon heat, but his mind was on Shanghai, the second round of the Formula One championship.

Ricciardo said he has put the disappointment of Melbourne behind him in his home grand prix, where he crashed during qualifying, copped a grid penalty and then saw his hopes fizzle out when his car stopped with engine failure on lap 29 of the 58-lap race.

“To start and finish [in Shanghai], that’s my target,” said Ricciardo. “To finish qualifying and to start the race. That will already be better than Melbourne. We want to get close to Ferrari and Mercedes. If we can get closer to the podium, that already will be a better result.

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“A podium [finish] would be a strong weekend for us. That’s what we are targeting but we have to get closer to Ferrari and Mercedes. Progress is what we are chasing for now and hopefully that will put us closer to the podium.

“In a way, it’s nice that someone [Ferrari] took the win away from Mercedes. I still think Mercedes are the quickest package and they are the team to beat but it’s good that some people can take points away from them for now and hopefully gives us the chance to be in the fight.”

Ricciardo has gotten over his Melbourne blues and is looking forward to his next challenge. At least the smile is back on the affable Australian’s face.

“Even on Monday morning after the race I was fine,” he said of his Melbourne disappointment. “I understand that’s how it works. It’s a shame that it had to happened in Australia. I would love a good home weekend but it was hard for us. But I’m ready to go for China. I’m feeling good about this weekend.”

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Ricciardo has yet to podium in Shanghai from five starts but he’s already a seasoned campaigner on the Chinese circuit and is hoping for good things this weekend.

“It’s quite a technical circuit and there are a lot of long and kind of obscure-shaped corners. It seems like it took a while to understand the best way to drive the circuit. I feel now with experience, the more I come, the more I seem to learn about this track.

“The faster you are on the circuit, the more you enjoy it, generally. I found a few secrets over the years and it has helped me become a bit more competitive.”

Asked about the new Formula One rules that have been put into place this season to help generate more interest in the sport, Ricciardo said: “The speed is faster and for us that’s better.

“We want to go faster and faster so that’s fun. Melbourne was a tricky race to understand if it’s made the sport better. We will see this weekend.

“There a quite a few opportunities on the circuit to overtake [in Shanghai]. If we have an exciting race, then it means the sport is looking good. If it’s not a very exciting race, I’m not sure whether these rule changes are better or not.”