Italian GP: ‚You realise you are not invincible‘

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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 author
Daniel Ricciardo went through which might be described as a dark night of the soul last Saturday.
After the passing of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert at the Belgian Grand Prix, the Renault driver moved back into his hotel and questioned whether it was all worth it. The response did not come readily, but the Australian raced on Sunday at Spa.
Four days , he sits with BBC Sport in the onset of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, also delves deep into what it requires to get a racing driver to face his fears and race on in such difficult conditions.
„I certainly challenged it,“ the 30-year-old Australian says. „The reality is, I do love it too much. Racing did believe appropriate in the conclusion. Although I didn’t really want to, after I did this, it was like, OK, this actually feels normal and right.“
For quite a very long time over last weekend, however, it felt anything but normal.
„When you are a kid and you watch it on TV, and you’re not present or not a part of it,“ Ricciardo says,“it seems like there’s some kind of space, or a disconnection to what’s happened.
„But when you are there and it happens to one of your colleagues, also it’s in exactly the same race, it sounds real, and it’s like:’OK, that really can happen to anybody, and it is here, it’s current right now.‘
„The realisation people not being invincible does put in. I understand my parents worry enough for me – you know, being on a plane every couple of days and watching me race and travel the entire world. You merely question it: is it really worth putting not only myself but household under exactly the identical quantity of pressure?“
At night of the accident, Ricciardo states, he“did not get much sleep, and so you’re asking yourself questions, probably only fighting a tiny bit with some anger and a shame of’why,‘ you know?
„And then also battling with a few of the emotions of if I really get up and race tomorrow? Is it the perfect thing? Can it be the ideal thing to do to me?
„And I sort of did think:’Let’s see how I feel by lunchtime, and if I am still having some doubts then possibly the most powerful thing for me is not to race‘
„I kind of wanted to play it by ear. Working through all these situations:’What if I really feel like this? Imagine if that?‘
„By Sunday morning, I had a little more clarity. I wake up preparing myself and did manage to sleep a bit. However, it felt weird and cold. It didn’t feel right to become excited to race, merely to be pleased to know there. It felt , tick off the minutes and find the job done.
„The lead-up into the race, I would probably just describe it as not really fun in terms of just it had been tough to attempt to go through the motions and undergo a routine when that has occurred less than 24 hours ago. And, you know, drivers‘ parade and all that, you are waving to fans, but you don’t feel right grinning or being happy, I imagine.
„It was difficult, just trying to enter the zone, only hoping to get any kind of rhythm.
„Getting in the car on Sunday was not effortless, but it had been more of a despair than a panic and I think that it was significant I established that. If I was getting in the vehicle using a pure degree of fear, then it would not happen to be clever for me to race. I did understand that it was just a sadness.“
„Once we sort of got going, it felt like fairly good launch. It felt like a de-stress, just racing and rival. Only going at these speeds, it was like flushing out the machine which felt good.
„Following the racefor sure I was glad it was done but I’d feel much better than I did 2 hours prior to that.
„I’ll be frank, the race was fun. It was great to be out there. As much as I had been excited about seeing the chequered flag, I’d enjoy a race on Sunday.“
The race acted as a form of catharsis.
„When something happens, you’ve simply go to dive into it, and that is the ideal means of overcoming it. And I believe that is exactly what the race was for us. I informed myself little things’Only go fast once possible. Leave the pits and go, and attempt to enter that mode already. Don’t tip-toe around. Don’t over-think certain areas on the track.‘
„I remember I got from those pitsdrifted out, and compelled me to put in that mindset right away.“
That is a reference to his thoughts about moving throughout Raidillon, at which Hubert had his crash. It is part of the Eau Rouge swerves, also a left-hander over the brow of a hill taken out in over 180mph.
„I told me ‚Go full throttle, and just don’t over-think this corner, don’t over-think any of it.‘ Out of these pits… held it full. It felt great to get out there and do that although This was a relief. And that told me I was prepared to go.
„I believe if I was, big lift and fearful, then that could be a sign that perhaps I should not be on the trail at this time. I guess I needed to do that to check myself and it felt right.“
Did he talk to the motorists about it?
„I got to speak to a few. This past year, I met with Anthoine. The Renault Academy boys obviously spent a lot of time with him and that I watched them. I spoke to a couple of them Saturday night as well, just text.
„They had done training camps together. They’re a small household. They are younger. That is where I felt I could try and be a little bit of, even in certain ways, a father figure to them and comfort them. They were more so, although I had been feeling it. We gave a kiss to each other on Sunday morning. We tried to talk over it a bit.
„And then with the other motorists, I talked to a few of them, but until the race you might see everybody kind of wanted to be on their own.
„Waiting to the driver parade, we’re all just standing out there. There really are some handshakes or hugs however, you could kind of tell everyone was just attempting to prepare for the race and it turned out to be a tough one. After the raceI spoke to mainly the French motorists, who I understood were nearest to Anthoine.“
Hubert is not the very first driver Ricciardo has understood who was murdered. The F1 driver was that the Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who suffered fatal head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Western Grand Prix. Ricciardo had come up through the ranks and they were close friends.
„Jules‘ [death] hit me very hard,“ Ricciardo says. „In a sense, maybe 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 despair and the hurt from that extended over a period.
„With this weekend, you believe time kind of remedies everything, and it was just like, OK, nothing’s happened for a little while and with good reason. The sport’s got safer and we are in a location that was good. And then it occurs. And it is a jolt.
„It is an anger that it’s happened again. We thought we’d moved on from all this. It’s when it is refreshed on your mind again and it’s there in front of you, it’s hard not to take it with difficulty.“
Has it altered his perspective?
„Initially, it did alter. It does be cured by time. Those emotions that are initial that are extreme did fizzle out.
„Together with all the Jules one, I felt like my purpose and intent then has been,’OK, if we are going to strap ourselves into these cars, and if we’re 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 make it rewarding.‘
„I felt just like Jules‘ passing sort of made me adopt the racer even more so. And to be honest this will probably end up having the same effect.
„I did not have that sort of fear from the race. And until that fear measures, I use it as a kind of motivation. However many years I 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 fears this manner, or even the uniqueness of the type of character required to do a job that they know might kill thembut to move ahead and do it anyway because they love it so much that they can’t stop.
Can Ricciardo clarify what causes F1 drivers capable to live with that contradiction?
He pauses for a few seconds.
„Really I get goosebumps,“ he says,“since I don’t really know why or how.
„On Saturday night, I felt no position to drive a race car around precisely the identical track the following day. But getting out of those pits and moving through Raidillon and that, it was weird how ordinary and natural that it felt. And I can not explain that.
„It’s probably just when you’ve got a deep fascination and love to get something, that is the result. I surprised myself, In all honesty. And we all did on Sunday.
„I didn’t expect to like any part of the race, no matter where I finished. But I really did enjoy being out there, which rush of racing. Yes, it was still in your mind, needless to say. But we’re in a position to place it to one side for a moment, I can’t explain why or how. It does surprise me“
Ricciardo is famous for his gung-ho style, along with his assaulting successes, often made possible by on-the-edge overtaking moves where he throws the car down the interior of a competition from an impossible distance back. How does the dangers be rationalised by him, on knowing that an accident is always a possibility carry?
„You have got to at all times control the controllables,“ he says. „In my case, I figure never find reckless.
„Following the race or at times you may find me provide a driver the finger or show my type of anger. But I tried to educate myself to not allow the emotion take more than the driver at the race and become reckless.
„Yes, I’ve tried some late overtakes in my time and I’ve done some moves that might appear risky, but there is always a degree of calculation and control in that and it has never done purely on emotion.
„So I’ll not let myself get irresponsible or place myself in a place I do not have to be in. Yes, I want to take risks and be on this line that is . But be sensible enough not to over-step it and that also I believe I am in a position to do that.
„From that viewpoint, I am comfortable hopping in the car. There’s obviously technical and failures stuff’s thing that can fail. That is an uncontrollable from my side. Can not really think about these. And in case you know they are there and current at times, when you set on the helmet and get going, you do not think about it.
„It is one of those things that when it happens in the wrong place or the wrong corner, then what exactly can you? You’ve got to put that motive in your head that it might have happened on the way into the circuit, so it might have occurred on the street.“
It is for racing drivers to discuss the probability of passing and threat openly rare.
Safety is discussed every weekend in F1, but it is normally on an abstract level – everything can people do about this gravel trap, or that barrier?
The departure of hubert has brought it front and centre. Is it hard is it to talk about doing it?
„Of course it’s tough to address something that is real and has happened,“ Ricciardo says,“however, it does help to talk about it. Having the comfort of everybody else and being around the grid together, and speaking to some of the other motorists… yeah, it is not fun speaking about it all, but in addition, it helps alleviate any emotions or feelings.
„I guess just knowing that you are in the exact same boat with someone else, realizing that you are not alone feeling the way you do, which helps.
„So being a part of a team or a neighborhood. This really is you realise, there are rivalries or whatever, but a competition on course doesn’t express how much all of us have in common and how far we really do really care and feel for each other.
„It’s tough but it will feel nice to find some of it off your chest.“
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Analysis and comment in the chief Formula 1 author of the BBC.
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