Hard-working Ricciardo hopes for reward for effort
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[March 23, 2017]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo
will again carry his nation's hopes of a first home winner at the
season-opening Grand Prix at Albert Park on Sunday and it would be a
well-earned victory for the Red Bull driver after a punishing week
off the track.
The pin-up boy of Australian motor racing, Ricciardo's profile has
grown year by year since humble beginnings with the defunct Hispania
Racing team in 2011.
Since replacing compatriot Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014 after two
years with Toro Rosso, the affable 27-year-old's popularity has
soared in his home country and his 'shoey' celebration -- drinking
champagne from his race boot on the podium -- has been adopted
enthusiastically by local athletes.
Burgeoning corporate support for the Perth-born driver has also
meant an exhausting schedule of promotional events ahead of the
season-opener and Ricciardo said he often felt overwhelmed by the
On Wednesday, he raced down Melbourne's Yarra River on speed-boats
with team mate Max Verstappen early in the morning before a big
Twelve hours and some five events later, a glassy-eyed Ricciardo
cracked jokes and told racing anecdotes at a re-branding party for a
Western Australian sponsor specializing in sandalwood production.
Having come fourth at Albert Park last year and had a runner-up
finish in 2014 stripped when his car was disqualified due to a
technical breach, Perth-born Ricciardo is desperate to reward his
fans with a win on Sunday.
But he won't be putting too much pressure on himself.
"It is demanding, it is a tiring week but obviously it's pretty cool
to see so many people supporting me and the event," he said at the
pre-race media conference on Thursday.
"It's kind of overwhelming actually.
"But it's nice and encouraging to see. I hear ticket sales are up
quite a chunk from last year. I try to enjoy it as well. I
appreciate it won't last forever."
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Red Bull racing driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia poses during
the driver portrait session at the first race of the year.
Ricciardo won three races in his 2014 debut season with Red Bull
before going winless in a disappointing 2015 plagued by reliability
He returned to the winner's circle at Malaysia last year, one of
only two races not sewn up by Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and
Nico Rosberg, who retired after winning the championship.
The other race was won by Verstappen, the teenage wunderkind
expected to make life increasingly difficult for Ricciardo on the
track as he matures.
Ricciardo welcomed the rivalry from the young Dutchman as positive
for Red Bull's hopes of threatening Mercedes' three-year reign over
"Hopefully tough (battles), hopefully we're fighting for victories,"
"He's obviously fast and it's his third year now... He's no longer a
rookie any more.
"The team is excited to see how we go, (like) everyone else.
"Hopefully it can be hyped up that we are fighting at the front,
that's what we both want."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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