Italian GP: ‚You realise you are not invincible‘

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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 author
Daniel Ricciardo went through exactly what could well be described as a dark night of the soul Saturday.
Following the death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Renault driver moved back to his hotel and questioned whether it was worth it. The response didn’t come readily, but on Sunday the Australian raced in the end.
Four days , he sits down with BBC Sport in the beginning of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, and delves deep into what it takes for a racing driver to face his fears and race on in such difficult conditions.
„I certainly questioned it,“ that the 30-year-old Australian states. „The reality is, I really do love it too much. Racing did feel appropriate in the end. Though I didn’t really wish to, after I did it, it was like, OK, this really feels right and normal.“
For quite a long time over a weekend it felt anything but normal.
„When you are a child and you watch it on TV, and you are not present or not a part of it,“ Ricciardo states,“it seems like there’s some kind of space, or even a disconnection to what has happened.
„But when you’re there and it happens to one of your coworkers, or it’s in the exact same race, it seems more real, and it’s like:’OK, that really can happen to anyone, and it is here, it is current today.‘
„The realisation people not being fine does set in. I know my parents stress enough for me already – you know, seeing me race and travel the entire world every few days and being on a plane. You merely question itis it really worth putting not just myself but family under exactly the exact same quantity of stress?“
The night of the collision, Ricciardo says, he“did not get much sleep, and so you are asking your questions, likely just fighting a little piece with some anger and a shame of’why,‘ you understand?
„And then also fighting with a few of the feelings of should I get up and race tomorrow? Is it the ideal thing? Can it be the perfect 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 would be to not race.‘
„I kind of wanted to play it by ear. Working through all these situations:’What if I feel? What if this?‘
„From Sunday morningI had a little more clarity. I wake up preparing myself for race day and did manage to sleep a little bit. But it felt cold and bizarre. It did not feel right to be excited to race to be pleased to know there. It felt , tick off the minutes and find the task done.
„The lead-up to the race, I would probably just describe it as not very fun in conditions of only it had been tough to attempt to go through the moves and undergo a regular when that’s happened less than 24 hours ago. Plus, you know, motorists‘ parade and all that, you are waving to fans, but you don’t feel being happy or smiling, I think.
„It was hard, just trying to enter the zone, only hoping to obtain any form of rhythm.
„Getting in the car on Sunday wasn’t easy, but it had been more of a despair than a panic and I think that it was important I established that. If I had been getting in the vehicle with a pure level of fear, then it would not happen to be clever for me . I did understand that it was just a despair.“
„Once we kind of got going, it really felt like pretty good release. It felt like a de-stress, only racing and rival. It had been like flushing the machine which felt good Only going at those speeds.
„Following the race, for sure I was glad that it was done but I’d feel better than I did 2 hours prior to that.
„I’ll be frank, the race was fun. It was great to be outside. And as far as I had been anticipating seeing the chequered flag, I did enjoy a pure race on Sunday.“
The race acted as a form of catharsis.
„When something happens, you have simply go to dip back into it, and that’s the ideal means of overcoming it. And I think that’s what the race was for us. I informed myself little things ‚Only go quickly as soon as possible. Leave on the pits and just go, and attempt to enter that mode already. Don’t tip-toe around. Don’t over-think certain areas.‘
„I recall I got from those pits, drifted out, and compelled me to put into that mindset right away.“
This is a reference to his thoughts about going throughout Raidillon. It is part of the Eau Rouge swerves, a left-hander over the brow of a hill taken out in over 180mph.
„I told myself’Go whole throttle, and just don’t over-think this corner, do not over-think any of it‘ From the pits… maintained it full. This was a relief but it felt great to get out there and do this. And that told me I was ready to go.
„I think if I had been, large lift and scared, then that would be a sign that maybe I shouldn’t be on the track at the moment. I guess I needed to do that to check myself and then it felt right.“
Did he talk to the motorists about it?
„I must talk to a few. This past season, I met Anthoine. The Renault Academy boys spent a lot of time and that I watched them. I spoke to a few of these Saturday night as well text.
„They had done training camps together. They are a household. They are younger. That’s where I felt I could try and be a little bit of, even in certain ways, a father figure to them and comfort them. I was feeling it, but they had been. We essentially gave a hug to each other on Sunday. We attempted to chat over it a tiny bit.
„And then with the other drivers, I talked to some of them, but before the race you might see everybody sort of wanted to be in their own.
„Waiting for the motorist parade, we were just standing out there. There were several handshakes or hugs but you could kind of tell everybody was just attempting to prepare for the race and it was a tough one. Following the race, I spoke to mostly the French motorists, who I understood were nearest to Anthoine.“
Hubert is not. The F1 driver to lose his life was the Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who suffered head injuries in a crash. Ricciardo’d come up through the ranks and they were close friends.
„Jules‘ [passing ] struck me really difficult,“ Ricciardo says. „In a sense, maybe not disrespecting it, I was very surprised how hard it hit me. I didn’t expect it to hit on me hard and for this to continue – the hurt and the despair from that extended over a period.
„With last weekend, you believe time type of cures everything, and it was just like, OK, nothing has happened for a while and with good reason. The game’s got safer and we are at a good location. And then it happens. And it is a jolt.
„It is an anger that it’s happened again. We thought we’d moved on from this. It is when it is refreshed in your mind again and it is there in front of you, it is hard not to think about it with trouble.“
Has it altered his view ?
„Originally, it did change. It does be cured by time. Those extreme first emotions did fizzle out.
„Together with all the Jules one, I felt like my goal and intent after that was,’OK, when we are likely to strap ourselves to these cars, and if we are all aware of the hazard, it doesn’t make sense to head in half-heartedly. Go in if we are going to do it, and allow it to be rewarding.‘
„I felt like Jules‘ passing sort of made me embrace the racer even more so. And to be fair this will probably wind up having the exact same effect.
„I didn’t have that sort of fear from the race. And until that fear steps in, I use it as a form of motivation. However a long time I really do it, I could say I did it correctly.“
It can be hard to comprehend how a racing driver can compartmentalise their anxieties in this way, or the uniqueness of the type of character necessary to do a job they know might kill them, but to go ahead and do it anyway since they love it so much they can’t stop.
Can Ricciardo explain what makes F1 drivers ready to survive with that contradiction?
He pauses for a few seconds.
„Actually I get goosebumps,“ he says,“since I do not actually know why or how.
„On Saturday night, I felt no spot to drive a race car around exactly the exact same track the following moment. But getting out of these pits and moving through Raidillon and all that, it was weird how normal and natural it felt. And I can not explain that.
„It’s probably just once you have a deep passion and love to get something, that’s the outcome. I amazed myself, In all honesty. And we all did on Sunday.
„I did not expect to enjoy any part of the race, no matter where I finished. However, I did that rush of hurrying, and enjoy being out there. Yes, it had been in mind, naturally. But we are in a position to put it into one side for an instant, I can not explain why or how. It does surprise me.“
Ricciardo is famous for his gung-ho style, along with his assaulting successes, frequently made possible by on-the-edge overtaking moves where he yells the car down the inside of a competitor from an impossible space back. How does he rationalise the dangers, continue knowing that an injury is always a chance?
„You’ve got to always control the controllables,“ he says. „In my situation, I figure never find reckless.
„Following the race at times you will find me provide a driver the finger show my kind of anger. However, I tried to educate myself become irresponsible, basically and also to not allow the emotion take over the driver at the race.
„Yes, I have tried some overdue overtakes in my own time and I’ve completed some moves which may appear risky, but there is always a degree of control and calculation in that and it’s never done purely on emotion.
„So I’ll never let myself get reckless or put myself in a place I don’t need to be in. Yes, also be on that line that is and I’d like to take risks. But you ought to be sensible enough not to over-step it and I think I’m in a position to do that.
„From this perspective, I’m comfortable hopping in the car. There failures and stuff’s thing that may fail. That’s an uncontrollable from my side. Can not really think about those actually. And in the event that you know they’re there and current times, once you put on the helmet and get going, you don’t think about doing it.
„It’s one of those things that when it happens in the wrong place or the incorrect corner, then what exactly do you do? You’ve got to place that motive on your head that it could have happened on the way into the circuit, so it could have occurred on the street.“
It is for racing drivers to talk about threat and the chance of death so rare.
Safety is discussed each weekend at F1, but it’s normally on an abstract level – what do people do about this particular gravel trap, or that barrier?
It has been brought front and centre by hubert’s death. Is it difficult is it to talk about doing it?
„Of course it’s difficult to deal with something that’s genuine and has happened,“ Ricciardo states,“however, it does help to discuss it. Possessing the comfort of everyone else last weekend and being on the grid and speaking to a number of the other motorists… yeah, it’s not fun speaking about it, but it also helps alleviate any feelings or emotions.
„I think just knowing that you’re in exactly the identical boat with someone else, realizing that you’re not lonely feeling how you do, that helps.
„Being part of a team or a neighborhood. This has been in which you realise, there are rivalries or anything, but a rivalry on track does not say how much most of us have in common and how far we do really care and feel for each other.
„It’s hard but it will feel nice to find some of it off your chest“
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