After a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian GP returns to the Formula 1 calendar this season at a revamped Melbourne track.
Several corners have been re-profiled and widened, while the biggest changes have been made to the rear of the circuit.
The route from the new turn 6 to 11 is now a complex of much faster turns to facilitate overtaking.
On Wednesday, during the unveiling of a new helmet design created in collaboration with Melbourne artist Reko Rennie , which will be auctioned off after this weekend’s race to help raise money for the Australian Red Cross, Daniel Ricciardo was upbeat. about the chances of more action.
“It looks very good,” he said of the new layout. “I was somewhat involved in the talks about the renovation of the circuit a few years ago, when they had the first idea of, say, what to do to try to improve the racing a little bit.
“It’s always been a fun circuit, but on Sundays it’s been a bit difficult to overtake, just because of the track and the nature of it. So the idea was to try and open it up and make Sunday a bit more exciting, and have more overtaking. So it’s going to be a lot more fluid.”
Ricciardo was optimistic about the faster track setup, which he hopes will be beneficial for McLaren, which struggles especially in low-speed corners.
“In Bahrain, the first race of the year, we were suffering,” he explained. “It was quite a technical and twisty circuit, then we went to Saudi Arabia, a lot more fluid. I think it’s more like what Melbourne is going to be this weekend, and we were a bit more competitive. So hopefully that means good things.” “.
“But I think, in terms of the race, you are going to see a totally different Sunday here.”
Ricciardo has not scored any points so far this year as McLaren found no rhythm in Bahrain and the Australian was forced to retire in Jeddah.
And while fans hope he can get a podium finish at home, he says the goal for now is to finish in the top ten.
“As simple as it sounds, I haven’t scored any points yet,” explained the Australian. “It’s only been two races, so getting into the points is a start. That’s the bare minimum.”
“Realistically, the only thing that would probably make everyone happy is a podium finish. So that’s what I would like. But the truth is that we are still a bit far from that.”
But even though Ricciardo doesn’t have a car that can contend for a victory in Australia, he says he is very happy to be back racing in his country, after the 2020 test was canceled on Friday morning.
“I think once he’s gone, you realize how much you miss him,” he said. “And that’s really the impression [I have].”
“We were so close a couple of years ago, and we were all here ready to race. I went to bed that night, ready to get up the next morning to hit the track, and it was in the middle of the night that I found out that was most likely going to be discontinued. Yeah, [it was] pretty disappointing.”
“Obviously that’s from a selfish point of view as a driver, but for everyone who was here and was hoping to see a race, obviously Australia is pretty out of the way, so for Australians to travel to other destinations around the world to go to a race is not easy. It was tough for everyone, so I’m very happy to come back here.”