From a Christmas spent in the scorching heat of his home town of Perth to balmy days by the beach in Los Angeles hanging with skateboarders, shooting hoops and training hard, it's back to business for Daniel Ricciardo... and that means a long day spent in a freezing North London industrial unit making tapes and throwing shapes for our new car and kit launches. Not exactly the apogee of F1 glamour, but for Daniel it's the perfect reintroduction and means just one thing: the season starts here...
Daniel, welcome back. How was your off-season?
Off-season was good. I really enjoyed some time at home – friends, family, a bit of downtime, a bit of chill. I did the first part of my training camp, my preparation for 2017, in Perth, got some real Aussie heat in me. And then I've been based out of LA for the past few weeks. It's been cool, a good change of scenery. I feel strong, I feel fit, and looking at all this stuff going on here [the team photo shoot] just excites me, so I'm ready to get back into it.
We're looking at a big set of regulation changes for 2017. How different will F1 be this year compared to last season?
I think there will be changes, but how it alters the pecking order we'll have to wait and see. I still believe that Mercedes and Red Bull will be at the pointy end – hopefully in reverse order to last year! The cars are going to be quicker, the tyres wider, so maybe on some narrow circuits it could be a bit trickier, especially with a wider car; that might make the available room for opportunity slightly less. The cornering speeds will be quicker.
If you're a fan, get yourself to a fast corner. Whatever track you're at, find one of the quick corners to really see what we're doing.
There's been a lot of talk about drivers facing an increased physical challenge this year. How has that shaped your pre-season training?
It's always been intense but this time we've been able to increase the intensity. We're not training to lose weight, we're training to put on a little bit of muscle and gain some strength, because if the cars are cornering a lot faster, the G forces and the toll that takes on the body will be higher, so the most important thing is the strength to be able to withstand that.
I feel strong, I feel fit, and looking at all this stuff going on just excites me.
A lot of your training was done in LA. Why was that?
Firstly, change of scenery; I think it's good to keep training fresh. I've been to LA a few times in the last few years and I really like it. We got in touch with Red Bull North America and they have a pretty awesome facility in Santa Monica. It was a way to train with good equipment and good people around you. There were other athletes there – skateboarders, you name it. Sure, their sport is different but you can see what they are doing and even take a little bit. If you can learn from another athlete then we're broadening our game, so I enjoy that.
Testing starts in a couple of weeks. What does a driver look for in the first few days with a new car?
The first thing you're looking for is reliability. There are so few test days available. You know track time is important for the car, for development, but it's also important for us physically. I know that my pre-season has been the best I've had in terms of physical preparation but it's still not driving a race car. I'll arrive fit and conditioned but the first day in the car is still going to hurt because you're body is going through different things, things it hasn't been through in a long time. You want to do the laps for yourself, so that you get that race fitness.
After the reliability is settled you want to go through a corner and feel it in your bottom that it's a fast car. Once you do one flying lap, you get an idea. It's just the way it brakes and turns – you just know. Hopefully, it's a good feeling, that first timed lap.
Do you set any goals ahead of a season and if you do what have you targeted in 2017?
I don't write stuff down and say 'Melbourne I want to be on podium' or 'here I want to do that', I just make sure I'm prepared for every race. I've said it for a few years, the one thing I want to do, if it is a goal, is never leave the race on a Sunday, on a flight home, thinking "I should have done this or that". I want to leave it all on the track on Sunday.