Monaco isn’t closed to traffic very often, so when it does take down the bollards and put up the catch-fencing, it generally likes to make sure the racing program is full - hence the rare sight of the World Series by Renault appearing on the F1 undercard. Last year, Red Bull Junior Daniel Ricciardo had to balance his WSR programme with his duties as Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver. It obviously didn’t prove a distraction, as he set blistering times on his Monoco debut and won the race. This year, he has to go one step further, complimenting a WSR programme with his usual first free practice drive for Toro Rosso. If you’ve even felt disconcerted swapping from one car to another, imagine what it feels like at 180mph…
So Dan, two racing cars in one morning - which was first?
"I was out in the Renault at 08.30 ‘til 09.15 and then at 10.00 I was in the Toro Rosso. It was a quick change but it was a really good experience for me. I mean, not many drivers get to do two sessions in one morning in Monaco - and in some beautiful race cars to boot. Honestly? It was awesome."
Did driving the WSR first make it tougher than usual to get a good lap out of the STR6?
"I wouldn’t say it was harder. I mean even if I hadn’t done the World Series this morning with the Renault, coming to Monaco, your first time in Formula One, it’s going to be quite difficult in itself. I don’t think it was a bad thing going out this morning. It got me familiar with the track again; it’s been 12 months after all. I think it was always going to take a bit of time in the Toro Rosso to understand what it’s like driving an F1 car around here. It’s crazy, by the way, it really is crazy. It’s also a lot of fun. My fastest lap came right at the end of a long run, when the tyres weren’t exactly at their best - but I spend the session getting used to the car and building up speed. It was pretty much what I expected to be doing.
"Switching cars does definitely take a bit of time though. This morning I did 1m28 lap in the WSR and I felt I was quite close to the limit, P1 on the timesheet and feeling pretty good. Then in the F1 car I did a 1m19s, so nearly ten seconds faster. It’s just an idea of how much faster everything is and how much more you have to do in F1. It’s another level of concentration and reactions."
What was the programme Toro Rosso prepared for you?
"Just the basics. We really didn’t have to try anything new, just gather data for the team. That included developing some information for how best to use KERS, and to work out whether we needed an aggressive [engine] map or a more progressive one that might limit wheelspin, and things like that. Then the other usual setup stuff: ride height, aero. It was nice to get out there."
"I got just a kiss off the barrier - which I think means I perfected it."
Nigel Mansell always claimed that a fast lap of Monaco required a driver to get close enough to the walls to rub the logos off the tyres - but we guess you’re under orders to stay away from the walls in Jaime’s race car?
"Honestly, the team all year have been really good in that respect. They’ve never told me not to push to the limit and they didn’t tell me to stay a metre away from the walls here. I think if they did say something like that, there wouldn’t be any point in me getting in the car, because none of us are going to learn anything. So, I’ve had as much freedom as I want - and I think my front right Pirelli tyre is maybe missing its logo now, thanks to the exit of Turn 16, the second chicane, just after the swimming pool. I got just a kiss off the barrier - which I think means I perfected it. It’s a lot of fun on a street circuit. It’s a different atmosphere and a different character and style of driving."
Does the approach change, going from the wide-open spaces of Barcelona last week, to the big concrete walls of Monaco.
"Maybe it does change a bit, because of the walls. It’s probably a little bit silly to attack from the first lap, so you do try to control yourself, not over-attack too early on. The track is always going to get better, so you’re not going to do your best time at the beginning. Also, if you put it in the wall, it’s a killer for your confidence . You don’t have that much track time anyway, and it’s going to put you on the back foot. You have to be patient for the first five laps I think, and just patiently build up a rhythm, and with that you get confidence."
But how does it compare to a real race track? Do the slow speeds and huge walls compare to the flat-out sweeps of Spa, for example?
"It’s more exciting here, because we don’t do street circuits all the time. Not only the atmosphere but the circuit, the walls, the change of grip with the evolution of the track. It’s all good fun."
Daniel Ricciardo will start from pole at the curtain-raising event of the Monaco F1 Grand Prix.
- More about the Toro Rosso STR6
- Check out the BBC's Circuit Guide
- Visit the official Formula 1 website
- Daniel Ricciardo profile page
- F1 Monaco Grand Prix event page