While both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso have retained their driver line-ups for the new F1 season, the attention in Melbourne is firmly on their shared reserve driver, Western Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo.
In between his Renault commitments in the World Series, Daniel will be putting the Toro Rosso STR6 through its paces in the Friday morning F1 practices sessions, with the race drivers sitting out the session alternately.
Dan’s first time on track should have been in Bahrain, but with that race cancelled, he’ll be making his debut in front of a full-throated and partisan crowd in Melbourne’s Albert Park. “It’s going to be a little more exciting, isn’t it?” says Dan, “It would have been nice to get something under my belt before coming here, but this is how it worked out, and Melbourne first time out is pretty special.”
Ricciardo will be borrowing Jaime Alguersuari’s car for Friday morning practice and will also benefit from the guidance of the Spaniard’s experienced race engineer Andrea Landi. “It’s Jaime’s car this week so I’ve have Jaime’s engineer, in Malaysia I’ll have Sébastien Buemi’s car and his engineer.”
“I haven’t been briefed yet regarding the sort of testing they want me to do – I’ll do my track walk first and we’ll go through all of that afterwards. The good news is that I’ve got two sets of Pirellis. This is big because it means I’ll get an extra run, so we’re looking at probably three good runs. Usually they should be short runs and hopefully I’ll set a couple of bad boys! I’ll certainly be giving it the herbs.”
Dan’s desire to top the timesheets isn’t entirely unrealistic: The Toro Rosso is one of the form cars coming into the season. “It does look good and, if pre-season is anything to go by, everything seems very promising. I think they had to try something a little bit radical and it seems like it works – but we won’t see until tomorrow. We won’t get too excited but I think we can be positive and a bit optimistic – there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The one thing that might rain on Daniel’s parade is – rain. Melbourne is currently swathed in cloud with intermittent showers. The forecast for the weekend isn’t promising. “Yeah, I saw the forecast and I wasn’t too happy about it – though I think the latest information is that Friday morning only has a 30 per cent chance of rain,’ says Dan, “ but if it is wet, so be it. Frankly I’m just looking forward to getting out there. Obviously I’d like to be able to attack the track in dry conditions, because I think that’d be a little more fun, but, if it’s wet, I’m sure it’ll be a great experience regardless. I’m driving an F1 car around Albert Park – it doesn’t get much better than that.”