Hometown boy’s on track for a big race

READY FOR ACTION: Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull Formula One car at Parliament House head of the 2015 Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix. INSET: Daniel Ricciardo
READY FOR ACTION: Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull Formula One car at Parliament House head of the 2015 Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix. INSET: Daniel Ricciardo Robert Cianflonegetty IMAGES

AFTER three wins elevated him close to superstar status in the world of Formula One in 2014, Australia's Daniel Ricciardo has a heavy weight to carry this year - the weight of expectation.

With former teammate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel - winless in 2014 - having moved on to Ferrari, the 25-year-old Aussie is now the main man at Red Bull.

Sporting his trademark boyish grin, the look of someone who cannot really believe he is being paid millions for something he would do for nothing, Ricciardo acknowledged the pressure would be higher this year, but said he just loved competing in front of his home fans.

"They are not shy," he grinned, speaking at one of many promotional assignments he will perform in Melbourne before Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

"They'll go out and cheer and will be loud and flamboyant. They are pretty passionate about sports in general. It's great to see Formula 1 growing a lot in Australia - it's becoming quite a popular sport, which is really cool to see."

After finishing third overall behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg last year, Red Bull has struggled somewhat in pre-season testing.

Ricciardo didn't win any of the sessions, but said there would be no excuses come Sunday.

"We had a few reliability issues, but we racked up a lot of miles and learned a lot," he said. "I still feel that we have a bit more to go. But there is no better place to do this than going racing. I'm ready to go."

Ricciardo will be partnered at Red Bull this season by 20-year-old Russian Daniil Kvyat who became the youngest driver to earn points in an F1 race in Melbourne last year.

He said he hoped to do even better this time.

"It's my second race in Melbourne and I took a lot of great memories from the race last year," he said.

"It's an interesting flowing track. It's challenging and there is always something special about it."

One driver who hopes to experience that is Giedo van der Garde.

The Dutchman spent his first day in Melbourne at the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday where his lawyer argued the 29-year-old should be one of two drivers for Sauber this weekend.

Van der Garde was part of the Sauber line-up late last year before being overlooked for Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.

Sauber Motorsport lawyer Rodney Garratt QC told the court the cars had been upgraded from Ferrari C33s to C34s for this season, and had been specifically designed for Nasr and Ericsson.

"Sauber could not allow him (van der Garde) to race... it would be reckless and dangerous to do otherwise," Garratt said.

"It would result in an unacceptable risk of physical harm or even death."

A decision is expected tomorrow.


Topics:  daniel ricciardo ferrari formula one red bull sebastian vettel

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