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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer
Daniel Ricciardo went through that which might be described as a very long, dark night of the spirit, last Saturday.
After the death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Renault driver went back to his hotel and questioned whether it was worth it. The answer didn’t come readily, but on Sunday the Australian raced in the long run.
Four days on, he sits with BBC Sport at the onset of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, and delve deep into what it requires to get a racing driver to face his fears and race on in such difficult conditions.
“I definitely challenged it,” the 30-year-old Australian states. “The stark simple truth is, weirdly, I do love it too much. Racing did feel in the conclusion. Although I didn’t really wish to, once I did this, it was just like, OK, that really feels right and normal.”
For a long time over a weekend, even however, it felt anything but normal.
“When you’re a child and you watch it on TV, and you are not current or not part of it,” Ricciardo states,”it seems like there is some kind of distance, or a disconnection to what’s occurred.
“But when you are there and it happens to a number of your colleagues, or it’s in the identical race, it seems more real, and it’s like:’OK, this really can happen to anyone, and it’s here, it’s present today.’
“The realisation people not being fine does put in. I understand my parents worry enough for me already – you know, now being on a plane every couple of days and seeing me race and traveling the world. You just question itis it really worth putting not only myself but household below precisely exactly the identical quantity of pressure?”
At night of the collision, Ricciardo says, he”didn’t get much sleep, and so you’re asking your questions, probably only fighting just a little bit with some anger and some frustration of’why,’ you know?
“And also fighting with a few of the emotions of if I get up and race tomorrow? Could it be the ideal thing? Is it the right thing?
“And I sort of did also think:’Let’s see how I feel by lunchtime, and when I am still having any doubts then possibly the most powerful thing for me is not to race.’
“I kind of wanted to play it by ear. Running through all these situations:’What if I feel? What if this?’
“From Sunday morningI had a little more clarity. I did manage to sleep just a bit and wake up preparing myself. However, it felt cold and bizarre. It did not feel right to be excited to race to be more delighted to be there. It felt tick off the minutes, just like and find the job finished.
“The lead-up to the race, I’d probably just describe it as not really fun in conditions of only it was tough to attempt to go through the moves and undergo a regular when that has occurred less than 24 hours ago. Additionally, you know, drivers’ parade and that, you’re turning to fans, but you don’t feel being happy or right smiling, I imagine.
“It was difficult, just hoping to get into the zone, simply attempting to find any kind of rhythm.
“Getting in the car on Sunday wasn’t effortless, but it was more of a sadness than a panic and I think that it was significant I found that. If I was getting in the car using a pure degree of dread, then it wouldn’t have been clever for me to race. I did know that it was a sadness.”
“After we kind of got moving, it felt like fairly good release. It felt like a de-stress, just rival and racing. Just going at these speeds, it was just like flushing the machine and that felt good.
“Following the race, for sure I was still glad it was done but I did feel better than I did 2 hours before that.
“I’ll be honest, the race has been fun. It was good to be outside. As much as I was excited about viewing the flag, I did like a pure race Sunday.”
The race acted as a kind of catharsis.
“When something happens, you’ve just go to dip back into it, and that’s the very ideal means of beating it. And I believe that’s exactly what the race was for us. I told myself things as well:’Just go fast as soon as possible. Leave the pits and go, and try to enter that mode. Do not tip-toe around. Don’t over-think certain places.’
“I recall I got out of the pitsdrifted out, and compelled me to get in that mindset right away.”
That is really a reference to his ideas about going throughout Raidillon, where Hubert needed his crash. It is a component of the Eau Rouge swerves, a left-hander within the brow of a mountain taken flat out in over 180mph.
“I told myself:’Go full throttle, and simply don’t over-think this corner, so do not over-think it.’ Out of these pits… maintained it full. This really was a relief but it felt good to get out there and do this. And that told me that I was ready to go.
“I believe if I was, big lift and fearful, then that would be a indication that maybe I should not be on the trail right now. I guess I wanted to do that to check myself and it all felt right.”
Can he talk to the other motorists about it?
“I must speak to some few. This past season I just met Anthoine. The Renault Academy boys spent a great deal of time and I watched them Sunday morning. I spoke to a few of them as well, just text.
“They had completed training camps together. They are a household. They are younger. That’s where I believed I could attempt to be a little bit of, even in some ways, a father figure to them and comfort them. I was feeling it, however they had been so. We gave each other all a kiss on Sunday morning. We tried to talk over it a bit.
“And with the other drivers, I spoke to some of them, but before the race you could see everyone sort of wanted to be in their own.
“Waiting for the driver parade, we’re just standing out there. There really are a few handshakes or hugs but you could sort of tell everyone was just attempting to prepare for the race and it turned out to be a tough one. After the race, I spoke to mostly the French motorists, who I knew were closest to Anthoine.”
Hubert is not. The F1 driver to lose his own life was that the Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who suffered fatal head injuries in a crash. Ricciardo’d come up with Bianchi through the rankings and they were buddies.
“Jules’ [death] struck me really hard,” Ricciardo states. “In a sense, not disrespecting it, I was very surprised how difficult it’s hit me. I didn’t expect it to hit me so hard and for this to survive – the damage and the despair from this extended over some period.
“With past weekend, you think time type of cures everything, and it was like, OK, nothing has happened for a while and with great reason. The sport’s got safer and we are in a great location. And then it happens. And it is a jolt.
“It’s an anger that it has happened again. We thought we’d moved on from all this. It’s when it’s refreshed on your head again and it is there in front of you, it is difficult not to think about it with trouble.”
Has it altered his view?
“Initially, it did change. It does be cured by time. Those first emotions did gradually fizzle out.
“With the Jules one, I felt just like my goal and intent after that has been,’OK, when we’re likely to strap ourselves to those cars, and when we’re all mindful of the hazard, it doesn’t make sense to head in half-heartedly. Go all in, if we are going to do it, and allow it to be worthwhile.’
“I felt as though Jules’ passing sort of made me embrace the racer more so. And to be fair this will end up having the exact same effect.
“I did not have that type of fear in the race. And before that fear measures, I use it as a form of inspiration. However a long time I really do it, at least I could say I did it correctly.”
It can be tough to comprehend the way the racing driver can compartmentalise their anxieties this way, or so the uniqueness of the type of character necessary to do a job that they know will kill them, but to go ahead and do it anyway since they appreciate it so much they can’t stop.
Can Ricciardo explain what causes F1 drivers ready to survive with that contradiction?
He pauses for a few seconds.
“Really I get goosebumps,” he says,”since I do not actually know why or how.
“On Saturday nightI felt no position to drive a race car on precisely the exact identical track the following moment. But getting out of those pits and moving through Raidillon and all that, it was bizarre how normal and natural it felt. And I can not explain that.
“It’s probably just once you’ve got a deep fascination and love for something, that’s the outcome. I surprised myself, to be honest. And we did on Sunday.
“I didn’t expect to like any portion of the race, so no matter where I ended. But I really did that rush of hurrying, and enjoy being out there. Yes, it had been in mind, needless to say. But we’re able to place it I can’t explain how or why. It will surprise me.”
Ricciardo is known for his gung-ho style, and his attacking successes, frequently made possible by on-the-edge overtaking moves where he throws the car down the interior of an opponent from an impossible distance back. How does the dangers be rationalised by him, on knowing that an accident is always a possibility carry?
“You’ve got to always control the controllables,” he says. “In my situation, I suppose not become reckless.
“Following the race or at times you may see me give a driver the finger show my type of anger. But I’ve tried to educate myself become irresponsible, basically and to not let the emotion take over the driver at the race.
“Yes, I’ve tried some late overtakes in my own time and I’ve completed some moves that might appear risky, but there is always a level of control and calculation in that and it’s never done only on emotion.
“So I’ll not let myself get irresponsible or place myself in a situation I don’t have to be in. Yes, I’d like to take risks and be on that line. But you ought to be sensible enough to not over-step it and that I believe I am able to do that.
“From that point of view, I’m comfy hopping in the vehicle. There the thing of things and failures that could fail. That’s an uncontrollable from my own side. Can’t really consider those. And in the event that you know they are present times and there, when you place on the helmet and get going, you do not think about doing it.
“It’s one of those things that if it happens in the incorrect place or the wrong corner, then what can you? You’ve got to place that rationale on your head that it could have occurred on the way to the circuit, so it might have occurred on the street.”
It’s for racing drivers to discuss the probability of death and danger publicly rare.
Safety is discussed each weekend at F1, but it within an abstract level – what can people do about this trap, or this obstruction?
It has been brought front and center by the death of hubert. Is it hard is it to discuss doing it?
“Of course it is tough to address something that’s actual and has occurred,” Ricciardo says,”but it will help to discuss it. Possessing the comfort of everyone else last weekend and being around the grid and speaking to some of the other drivers… yeah, it’s not fun talking about it all, but it also will help relieve any feelings or emotions.
“I think just knowing that you’re in exactly the identical boat with someone else, realizing that you’re not alone feeling how you do, that helps.
“Being a part of a team or a neighborhood. This really is in which you realisethere are rivalries or whatever, but a rivalry on course doesn’t say how much we all have in common and how much we really do actually care and feel for each other.
“It is tough but it does feel nice to get a portion of it off your chest.”
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