Daniel Ricciardo anticipates that “driver egos will get in the way” when the Austrian Grand Prix takes place next month after a long hiatus in Formula 1 competition.
While some teams have recently or will conduct some form of track activity before finally starting the season proper, either through filming days or testing of previous cars, there has been no official F1 action since pre-season testing in February.
Despite the lack of mileage for some drivers in recent months, Ricciardo believes that practice represents “plenty of seat time” before the first race of 2020.
However, the Renault F1 Team driver also suggested that some may be too eager to demonstrate that they have not lost anything during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to get plenty of practice, so the race weekend will go as normal,” Ricciardo told the F1 Nation podcast.
“We’re going to get plenty of seat time before race day.
“But the lights are going to go out and for sure we’re all going to be showing everyone, ‘I trained harder in my quarantine,’ or ‘I’m less rusty than you are.’
“I’m sure some driver egos will get in the way.
“Or, everyone will be really cautious (because) ‘this feels foreign.’
“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting. We don’t really know how many races we’re going to get this year, so you’re probably going to get the mentality of ‘let’s make this one count.’”
Renault is one of the teams which opted to test a previous car, and Ricciardo logged almost 500km of running at the Red Bull Ring in an R.S.18.
He said that it was helpful to become reacquainted with driving an F1 car again.
“It was good to get back to it,” remarked Ricciardo.
“The first few laps felt a little foreign. It’s like all things, when you’ve been doing something pretty much your whole life it doesn’t take long until you remember the feeling, and it all feels normal very quickly.
“But certainly, the first time, getting in and leaving the pits, the first few laps, it felt a little strange. But I’m really glad we got to do it, just shaking off the cobwebs, even like your general kind of body soreness that you get after the first day; I feel like I’ve gone through that now.
“It was good to get back into work mode, as much as quarantine was nice on the farm (in Western Australia), I did miss serious competition and serious work.
“Obviously we did get to drive the R.S.20 in testing before this pandemic started. It’s come a long way in two years, I’ll say that; it’s actually quite nice driving a two-year-old car, because it shows you the progress the sport makes.”
The 30-year-old hopes that a strong showing in Austria, which hosts the first two grands prix of the season, will bode well for the rest of 2020 as Renault seeks to win the midfield battle.
“All we’ve got now is testing back in February. We kind of had our analysis after the testing, and tried to figure out where everyone stands,” he explained.
“All I can say is the lead midfield car, it was really hard to figure out if it was us or not. It looked like at least three of the midfield teams were within a tenth.
“Austria last year for us was maybe our worst weekend of the year. I think if we could come out there and be at the front of the midfield, I think it looks good for us for the rest of the season.”
The Austrian Grand Prix takes place on July 3-5.