Italian GP: ‚You realise you are not invincible‘

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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer
Daniel Ricciardo went through that which could well be described as a very long, dark night of the soul, Saturday.
After the passing of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Renault driver moved back to his hotel and questioned whether it was all worth it. The response did not come readily, but on Sunday the Australian hurried Spa in the end.
Four days , he sits with BBC Sport in the onset of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, also delves deep into what it takes for a racing driver to confront his fears and race on in such difficult conditions.
„I definitely questioned it,“ that the 30-year-old Australian says. „The reality is, I do love it too much. Racing did believe in the conclusion. Even though I didn’t really want to, after I did this, it was just like, OK, this actually feels normal and right.“
For quite a long time over last weekend it felt anything but normal.
„When you’re a kid and you watch it on TV, and you’re not current or not part of it,“ Ricciardo states,“it still seems like there is some form of distance, or a disconnection to what’s happened.
„But if you’re there and it happens to a number of your colleagues, or it is in exactly the exact same race, it sounds more real, and it is like:’OK, this really can happen to anyone, and it is here, it’s present right now.‘
„The realisation of us not being fine does set in. I understand my parents worry enough for me – you know, seeing me race and travel the world every couple of days, and now being on a plane. You just question itis it really worth putting not only myself but household below precisely exactly the same amount of anxiety?“
At night of the collision, Ricciardo says, he“didn’t get much sleep, and for sure you are asking yourself questions, likely only fighting just a little piece 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 everywhere? Is it the right thing? Is it the ideal thing to do to me?
„And I sort of did also think:’Let’s see how I’m feeling by lunchtime, and when I’m still having any doubts then maybe the safest thing for me is to not race‘
„I sort of wanted to play it by ear. Working through all these scenarios:’What should I feel? What if this?‘
„By Sunday morningI had a little more clarity. I did manage to sleep a little bit and wake up preparing myself. However, it felt cold and weird. It did not feel right to be eager to race to be more pleased to be there. It felt tick off the moments and find the task done.
„The lead-up into the race, so I’d probably only describe it as not quite fun in terms of just it was tough to attempt to go through the motions and go through a routine when that’s occurred less than 24 hours past. In addition, you know, motorists‘ parade and all that, you’re turning to fans, however you do not feel right smiling or being happy, I suppose.
„It was difficult, just trying to get into the zone, simply hoping to come across any kind of rhythm.
„Getting in the car on Sunday wasn’t simple, but it had been more of a despair than a panic and I think that it was significant I found that. If I was getting in the vehicle with a pure amount of fear, then it wouldn’t have been smart for me to race. I did understand that it was just a sadness.“
„Once we kind of got moving, it really felt like fairly great launch. It felt like a de-stress, simply rival and racing. It was like flushing the machine and that felt good just going at those rates.
„After the race, for certain I was glad it was done but I did feel better than I did 2 hours before that.
„I will be honest, the race has been fun. It was great to be out there. And as much as I was excited about viewing the chequered flag, I’d like a pure race Sunday.“
The race acted as a kind of catharsis.
„If something happens, you’ve simply go to dip back into it, and that is the very best method of overcoming it. And I believe that is what the race has been for us. I informed myself things ‚Just go quickly whenever possible. Leave on the pits and go, and attempt to get into that style already. Do not tip-toe around. Don’t over-think certain places on the track.‘
„I remember I got out of the pitsdrifted out, and compelled me to put in that mindset straight away.“
That can be a reference to his ideas about going throughout Raidillon, in which Hubert had his crash. It is part of the notorious Eau Rouge swerves, a left-hander over the brow of a mountain taken flat out at more than 180mph.
„I told myself:’Go full throttle, and simply don’t over-think this corner, so do not over-think it‘ From these pits… maintained it full. It felt good to get out there and do that although that really was a relief. And that told me I was ready to go.
„I think if I had been, big lift and fearful, then that could be a sign that maybe I should not be on the trail at this time. I suppose I wanted to do that to test myself and it felt right.“
Did he talk to the other drivers about it?
„I got to speak to some few. This past year, I met with Anthoine. The Renault Academy boys spent a great deal of time and I watched them Sunday morning. I spoke to a couple of these Saturday night as well, just text.
„They’d done training camps together. They are a household. They are younger. That is where I felt I could attempt to be a little bit of, in certain ways, a father figure to them and comfort them. I had been feeling it, but they had been so. We gave each other all a hug on Sunday. We tried to chat over it a bit.
„And with the other motorists, I talked to some of these, but before the race you could see everybody sort of wanted to be on their own.
„Waiting to the driver parade, we were just standing out there. There were several handshakes or hugs however, you could kind of tell everybody was just hoping to get ready for the race and it was a tough one. After the race, I talked to mainly the French motorists, who I knew were closest to Anthoine.“
Hubert is not. The previous F1 driver to reduce his entire life was the Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who suffered head injuries in a crash. Ricciardo’d come up with Bianchi through the rankings and they were buddies.
„Jules‘ [departure ] hit me quite hard,“ Ricciardo states. „In a way, not disrespecting it, I was quite amazed how difficult it’s hit me. I didn’t expect it to hit on me so hard and for it to continue – the sadness and the damage 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 good reason. The sport’s got safer and we are at a place that was good. And then it happens. And it’s a jolt.
„It’s an anger that it’s occurred again. We thought we had moved on from all this. It’s when it is refreshed on your head again and it’s there in front of you, it’s difficult not to think about it with difficulty.“
Has it changed his outlook?
„Initially, it did shift. Time does heal it. Those initial emotions that are extreme did fizzle out.
„Together with the Jules one, I felt just as though my purpose and intent after that was,’OK, when we’re likely to strap ourselves into those cars, and if we are all conscious of the hazard, it does not make sense to move in half-heartedly. If we’re going to do it, then go in, and make it rewarding.‘
„I felt like Jules‘ passing kind of made me embrace the racer more so. And to be honest this will end up having the exact identical effect.
„I did not have that type of fear from the race. And before that fear steps in, I use it as a form of inspiration. However many years I do it, at least I could say that I did it right.“
It can be hard to understand the way the racing motorist can compartmentalise their fears this way, or the uniqueness of the type of character needed to perform a job they know can kill thembut to go ahead and do it anyhow since they appreciate it so much that they can not stop.
Can Ricciardo clarify what exactly makes F1 drivers capable to survive with that contradiction?
He pauses for a few seconds.
„Really I get goosebumps,“ he says,“because I do not really understand why or how.
„On Saturday nightI felt in no position to drive a race car on exactly the exact same track the next day. But getting out of those pits and going through Raidillon and all that, it was weird how normal and natural it felt. And I can’t describe that.
„It is probably just when you’ve got a deep fascination and love for something, that is the outcome. To be honest, I amazed myself. And we all did Sunday.
„I did not expect to enjoy any area of the race, so regardless of where I finished. However, I did enjoy being back out there, which rush of hurrying. Yes, it was in mind, needless to say. But we’re able to put it into one side for a moment, I can not explain how or why. It will surprise me“
Ricciardo is famous for his eponymous style, along with his assaulting victories, often made possible by on-the-edge overtaking moves where he yells the car down the inside of an opponent from an impossible distance back. How can he rationalise the dangers, on knowing that an accident is always a chance carry?
„You have got to at all times control the controllables,“ he says. „In my situation, I figure not find reckless.
„After the race at times you will see me provide a driver the finger or show my kind of anger. However, I tried to teach myself to not let the emotion take more than the driver in the race and get irresponsible, basically.
„Yes, I have tried some late overtakes in my own time and I have completed some moves that might appear risky, but there’s always a level of control and calculation in that and it’s never done only on emotion.
„So I will never let myself get reckless or place myself in a position I don’t need to be in. Yes, I wish to take risks and also be on that fine line. But be sensible enough not to over-step it and I believe I am in a position to do that.
„From that point of view, I am comfy hopping in the car. There’s always technical and failures stuff’s thing that could fail. That is an uncontrollable from my side. Can not really consider those. And even if you know they are current times and there, when you place the helmet on and get going, you do not think about doing it.
„It’s one of the things that if it happens in the incorrect place or the wrong corner, then what do you do? You’ve got to place that rationale on your head that it might have happened on the way into the circuit, so it might have happened on the road.“
It’s for racing drivers to discuss danger and the chance of death so rare.
Security is discussed every weekend at F1, but it within an abstract level – what can we do about this trap, or that barrier?
The departure of hubert has brought it front and center. Is it hard is it to discuss doing it?
„Obviously it is hard to address something that is real and has happened,“ Ricciardo says,“however, it will help to talk about it. Possessing the comfort of everybody else last weekend and being around the grid together, and talking to a number of the other motorists… yeah, it’s not fun speaking about it, but in addition, it can help relieve any feelings or emotions.
„I guess just knowing that you’re in precisely exactly the same boat with somebody else, knowing that you are not alone feeling the way you do, that helps.
„So being a part of a team or a neighborhood. That has been you realisethere are rivalries or anything, but a competition on track does not express how much most of us have in common and how far we really do truly care and feel for one another.
„It’s tough but it does feel nice to find some of it off your chest“
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Analysis and comment from the BBC Formula 1 writer.
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