Robb Interview: Daniel Ricciardo
We sit down to dissect the weekend that was, TV’s influence on F1 and why his work with St Hugo wines could ultimately assist his dad.
It’s a day after Melbourne F1 and Dan Ricciardo is in a buoyant mood.
The weekend proved a happy hunting ground for his McLaren – driven by that thing all F1 teams seek beyond speed: consistency.
In an elevated hotel suite, with a view over a twinkling city skyline that’s increasingly reminiscent of New York, the 32-year-old sits with Robb Report to explore his best result of the 2022 season and, more so, why he’s so eagerly embraced his role as occasional winemaker for St Hugo.
Robb Report: Congratulations on the weekend – a solid result and one that must be pleasing after a few trials already this year?
Daniel Ricciardo: Thanks, it felt good but then it’s a funny one, because I’ve been doing this for ten years or so and so to get a sixth – meh. But it does feel good because, as you say, it’s the best result this year and it was a solid weekend from start to finish. I’m also happy for the home crowd – I feel it was enough to keep them up and about and excited.
RR: How do you combat the increased pressure that comes from this being your home GP?
DR: It’s the nature of the beast and what makes a good or a great athlete or sportsperson, it’s just who can handle that pressure the best. Across all sports there’s a dozen or so who can all do the same thing at that level, right? So it’s then the top two who can handle the external stuff better. For sure, a home race is a little more of a challenge as you’re also dealing with your own emotions – you’re more excited to be on home soil and you get all this great support, but you have to bring yourself back and stay level as much as possible.
RR: There was a true vibe, this tangible buzz that framed the weekend – record crowds and people really embracing the racing and everything F1, I’ve personally not felt such a vibe like that here in Melbourne before. Can you feel it?
DR: It was nuts this year. I think, you know, people haven’t been for a couple of years so there’s that to it … There was just this felt the oomph and a buzz and this overall happiness from the crowd that we were back — it was the most enjoyable home race I’ve had. I was talking to our team principal Andreas Seidl and he was the same, he was saying he’d never seen anything like this weekend, so it was really cool – people were out and they were awesome.
RR: A lot’s been said about Drive To Survive – much about its influence and driving even greater interest in F1 and to a much wider audience. Do you think that has played a role in regards to broader audience attendance; have you seen or felt its influence in relation to recent GP crowds?
DR: It’s definitely changed a lot of things. F1 has always been big here and since [Mark] Webber has grown and grown, but there’s been a big turn since that series first aired – we’ve seen it in all parts of the world and that’s definitely come across.
RR: An an F1 driver your time’s rather limited – so why do Drive to Survive; why participate in the program given you don’t have to?
DR: What is good with it is that 95% of the time it’s done on our terms. If they come to the farm, you know, I’ve said that’s ok, they’re not just turning up and knocking on the door. And so I’d say we’ve still got good control of our time – and that’s the big reason for me to do it, it’s been pretty easy going.
RR: Let’s talk wine. We can only imagine how many brands or labels must approach you to collaborate – so why St Hugo, what’s central to this relationship?
In short – they’re Australian, that’s a massive reason for me. I left home at 17, so nearly half my life I’ve been living out of Oz, but I still 100% consider myself a homeboy. And then the older I got the more I started to drink wine, and travelling the world I’d always be trying wine from different regions. But I’d always come back to Australia, to Australian wine and I actually drank alot of St Hugo, I liked it and so here we are.
RR: Ventures such as this and which are away from the track – do they also provide some necessary balance or sense of escape?
DR: I think that if I went to bed every night with the wheels turning and just about F1 then I’d get a little worn out by that… I’m someone who has hobbies and likes getting involved in other things. If something’s interesting to me then I want to learn about it, I want to educate myself and be creative …
RR: So what then has Daniel Ricciardo learnt about wine, through this process of working with St Hugo on your own drops?
DR: Well, I now know how to use big words and how to place words you don’t really understand in a sentence. I’ll be honest, and I think this even with food, I feel I’ve got a decent palate – so it’s given me an understanding of how to better taste things and better describe what it is I’m tasting, which in this case makes drinking wine more enjoyable. It’s also a talking point at a table – we travel the world with friends, family and through events and so it’s great to talk about it, that’s all part of it.
RR: You mentioned your farm in the southwest – time to now take some of what you’ve learnt and run in some vines?
DR: We actually have a little vineyard — but it’s tiny and it’s just for mum and dad to do something, to have a bit of fun with … My dad’s side of the family actually makes some homemade wine, hmmm, right, yeah he’s going to hate me for saying this, but they’ve done poorly for many years. Honestly, it tastes like vinegar, it’s terrible. So maybe I can now help
RR: Alongside the new DR3 II x St Hugo release you’ve opted for a very distinct decanter – moulded in glass from a race boot, we’re told an unworn one provided by your mum, and in essence it’s a nod to your famed podium celebration ‘the shoey’. We’ll be honest – we thought at first it was an April Fool’s joke.
DR: Yeah you weren’t alone …
RR: A cheeky little up yours perhaps to the rigidity of the stuffiness of the wine world?
DR: It fits perfectly into why I did the actual ‘shoey’ in the first place, back in 2016. And that was because I sometimes felt F1 can be a little too stiff, yeah, I’ll use that word, ‘stiff.’ That was my feeling towards F1 and sometimes the drivers on the podium – I’d be like, ‘man you just got a podium, show some emotion.’ I wanted to make [the podium] fun and relax the shoulders a bit when up there … And so that has transitioned into doing a decanter – which is fun. I get that doing a ‘shoey’ is kind of gross – but we’ve turned that into this magnificent decanter that’s fun and it also works. And I’m putting my name to it — so it’s very me and St Hugo were completely on board …
The limited release DR3 x St Hugo wines and Ricciardo Decanter are available online only now; www.sthugo.com/dr3
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