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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 Saturday.
Following the death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert at the Belgian Grand Prix, the Renault driver went back to his hotel and asked whether it was worth it. The response didn’t come readily, but on Sunday the Australian hurried Spa in the long run.
Four days , he sits down with BBC Sport at the onset of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, also delve deep into what it requires to get a racing driver to confront his fears and race in these difficult conditions.
“I definitely questioned it,” the 30-year-old Australian says. “The reality is, weirdly, I really do love it a lot. Racing did feel right in the conclusion. Though I did not really want to, once I did it, it was like, OK, this really feels right and normal.”
For quite a long time over last weekend it felt anything but ordinary.
“When you’re a kid and you see it on TV, and you are not current or not a part of it,” Ricciardo states,”it still seems like there’s some kind of distance, or a disconnection to what’s happened.
“But when you are there and it occurs to a number of your colleagues, or it is in the exact same race, it seems more real, and it is like:’OK, this actually can happen to anyone, and it’s here, it’s current right now.’
“The realisation of us not being fine does put in. I know my parents worry enough for me – you know, watching me race and traveling the entire world every couple of days and being on a plane. You just question itis it really worth putting not just myself but household below exactly the exact identical quantity of pressure?”
The night of the crash, Ricciardo states, he”didn’t get much sleep, and so you’re asking your questions, likely only fighting just a little piece with some anger and some frustration of’why,’ you understand?
“And then also battling a few of the feelings of should I actually get up and race tomorrow? Is it the perfect thing? Is it the right thing?
“And I sort of did think:’Let’s see how I’m feeling by lunchtime, and if I’m still having some doubts then maybe the safest thing for me is to not race.’
“I sort of wanted to play it by ear. Simply working through all these situations:’What if I really feel? What if that?’
“By Sunday morningI had a bit more clarity. I did manage to sleep just a bit and wake up preparing myself for race day. 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 business done.
“The lead-up into the race, so I’d probably only clarify it as not really fun in terms of only it was tough to try and go through the moves and go through a regular when that’s occurred less than 24 hours past. Additionally, you know, drivers’ parade and all that, you’re turning to fans, however you don’t feel right smiling or being happy, I suppose.
“It was difficult, just hoping to enter the zone, only hoping to obtain any kind of rhythm.
“Getting in the car on Sunday was not easy, but it had been more of a sadness than a fear and I believe it was important I found that. If I was getting in the vehicle using a pure amount of dread, then it would not have been clever for me to race. I did know that it was a sadness.”
“Once we kind of got moving, it felt like pretty great release. It felt like a de-stress, simply rival and racing. It was like flushing the machine and that felt great just going at those speeds.
“Following the racefor sure I was glad it was done but I’d feel much better than I did 2 hours before that.
“I’ll be frank, the race has been fun. It was great to be out there. And as much as I was anticipating seeing the flag, I did enjoy a race Sunday.”
The race acted as a kind of catharsis.
“If something happens, you have just go to dip back into it, and that is the best method of beating it. And I believe that is what the race has been for us. I informed small things too:’Just go once possible. Leave the pits and go, and attempt to enter that style. Do not tip-toe around. Don’t over-think certain locations.’
“I recall I got out of these pits, drifted out, and forced myself to get in that mindset right away.”
This can be really a reference to his ideas about going through Raidillon. It’s part of the infamous Eau Rouge swerves, a left-hander over the brow of a mountain taken out in more than 180mph.
“I told me :’Go complete throttle, and simply don’t over-think this corner, do not over-think any of it’ From these pits… held it complete. This really was a relief but it felt good to get out there and do this. And that told me that I was prepared to go.
“I believe if I was, big lift and fearful, then that could be a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t be on the track right now. I guess I wanted to do this to check myself and it all felt right.”
Can he talk to the other drivers about it?
“I must talk to a few. I only met Anthoine. The Renault Academy boys clearly spent a great deal of time and that I saw them Sunday morning. I spoke to a couple of them Saturday night as well, just over text.
“They had done training camps collectively. They are a small family. They are younger. That is where I believed I could attempt to be a tiny bit of, even in certain ways, a father figure to them and comfort them. I had been feeling it, but they had been more so. We essentially gave each other all a hug on Sunday morning. We tried to chat over it a bit.
“And then with all the other motorists, I spoke to a few of these, but before the race you could see everybody sort of wanted to be in their own.
“Waiting for the driver parade, we’re all just standing there. There really are several handshakes or hugs however, you could sort of tell everyone was just trying to prepare for the race and it turned out to be a demanding one. Following the raceI talked to mainly the French motorists, who I understood were nearest to Anthoine.”
Hubert is not the very first driver Ricciardo has known who was killed. The last F1 driver was that the Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who suffered head injuries in a crash. Ricciardo had come up with Bianchi through the rankings and they were close friends.
“Jules’ [departure ] struck me quite hard,” Ricciardo says. “In a way, not disrespecting it, I was very amazed how hard it hit me. I didn’t expect it to hit on me hard and for it to last long – the damage and the sadness from that extended over a period.
“With past weekend, you think time type of remedies everything, and it was like, OK, nothing has happened for a little while and with good reason. The game’s got safer and we are in a location that was fantastic. And then it happens. And it is a jolt.
“It’s an anger that it’s happened again. We thought we’d moved on from this. It’s when it is refreshed on your mind again and it’s there in front of you, it is hard not to think about it with difficulty.”
Has it altered his outlook?
“Originally, it did alter. It does be cured by time. Those first emotions did slowly fizzle out.
“Together with the Jules one, I felt as if my goal and intent then was,’OK, when we are likely to strap ourselves to those cars, and if we’re all mindful of the hazard, it doesn’t make sense to move in half-heartedly. Go all in if we are going to do it, and make it worthwhile.’
“I felt as though Jules’ passing kind of made me adopt the racer even more so. And to be honest that this will end up having the same effect.
“I didn’t have that sort of fear in the race. And until that fear steps in, I use it as a kind of motivation. However many years I do it, I could say that I did it right.”
It can be tough to understand the way the racing driver can compartmentalise their anxieties in this way, or the uniqueness of the kind of character needed to perform a job that they know might kill them, but to move ahead and do it anyhow since they love it so much that they can not stop.
Can Ricciardo clarify what causes F1 drivers capable to live with that contradiction?
He pauses for a couple of seconds.
“Actually I get goosebumps,” he states,”because I do not actually understand how or why.
“On Saturday night, I felt no position to drive a race car around the same track the next day. But even getting out of those pits and going through Raidillon and that, it was bizarre how normal and natural that it felt. And I can’t explain that.
“It’s probably just when you’ve got a deep fascination and love for something, that’s the result. I amazed myself, to be honest. And we did Sunday.
“I did not expect to like any part of the race, so no matter where I ended. However, I really do that rush of racing, and enjoy being out there. Yes, it had been in your mind, naturally. But we’re ready to put it into one side for a moment, I can’t explain how or why. It will surprise me”
Ricciardo is famous for his gung-ho style, along with his assaulting successes, frequently made possible by on-the-edge overtaking moves in which he yells the car down the interior of an opponent from an impossible distance back. How does the dangers be rationalised by him, continue knowing that an injury is always a chance?
“You have got to at all times control the controllables,” he states. “In my case, I suppose not find reckless.
“Following the race or at times you will find me provide a driver the finger or show my sort of anger. However, I tried to educate myself to not allow the emotion take over the driver at the race and get reckless, essentially.
“Yes, I’ve tried some late overtakes in my own time and I’ve completed some motions 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 reckless or put myself in a situation I don’t need to be in. Yes, also be on that line that is and I’d like to take risks. But be sensible enough not to over-step it and that I believe I am ready to do that.
“From that viewpoint, I am comfortable hopping in the vehicle. There’s always failures and technical stuff’s thing that can fail. That’s an uncontrollable out of my side. Can’t really think about those actually. And even if you know they are present at times and there, as soon as you get going and set on the helmet, you don’t think about it.
“It’s one of the things that when it occurs in the wrong place or the incorrect corner, then what can you? You have got to place that motive in your head that it might have occurred on the way into the circuit, so it might have occurred on the road.”
It’s for racing drivers to discuss danger and the chance of passing so publicly rare.
Security is discussed every weekend at F1, but it in an abstract level – what do we do about this farming trap, or this obstruction?
Hubert’s departure has brought it front and center. Is it hard is it to discuss doing it?
“Of course it is tough to address something that is actual and has occurred,” Ricciardo states,”however, it will help to talk about it. Having the comfort of everybody else and being on the grid and talking to a number of the other motorists… yeah, it’s not fun talking about it, but in addition, it can help alleviate any feelings or emotions.
“I guess just knowing that you’re in precisely exactly the same boat with someone else, realizing that you’re not lonely feeling how you do, which helps.
“Being a part of a team or a community. This has been the place you realise, there are rivalries or whatever, but a rivalry on course does not say how much most of us have in common and how far we do really care and feel for each other.
“It is tough but it will feel nice to get some of it off your chest.”
The Capture: A multi-layered conspiracy that is dramatic
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