It doesn't matter how many seasons go by, how many races get ticked off successive calendars or how many test sessions whirl by, the start of a new season is always a time when the nerves start to jangle.
It's a moment when anticipation rises, when excitement reaches fever pitch, and it's a golden period when F1 folk can once again leave the real world behind and delude themselves that the really hard stare they received from their spouse/significant other/bank manager really was just an affectionate way of saying: 'Go ahead, you get on that plane and have a great time! It's all fine, really it is.' Yep, F1 2017 beckons and we're all running away with the circus once more.
Twenty stops await, a marathon set of thrilling sprints at some of the planet's finest racetracks, in some of the world's great cities. And first up, it's Melbourne, traditional season-opener and beloved destination of the whole paddock. With a great vibe, great weather (usually), great people, great food and drink and more often than not some really great racing, Melbourne's undoubtedly one of the season's highlights. Don't believe us? Let Dan and max convince you otherwise...
New season, all-new cars and, of course, it's your home race – raring to go?
It's always good to be back on home soil and enjoy a bit of sunshine after winter testing. My home race is awesome in so many ways but it's also super busy and full on, the week for me starts on Monday and doesn't stop until Sunday night. I try and attend as many events as I can but I'm still there to do a job.
My home race is awesome in so many ways
Naturally, you're the centre of some attention in Melbourne. Is that a burden or a boost for you?
It's nice that there's so much media attention at the start of the season and everyone is super excited to see how I go. We get a pretty big greeting from everyone when we arrive at track each morning; the fans are so enthusiastic. This year they have named a grandstand after me, the Ricciardo Premium Grandstand with views of turns three, four and five, which is pretty cool. It's another bit of motivation for me to do well and I will of course give the fans a wave. It's great to have such positive support and I've heard the tickets sold out pretty quickly for the stand.
Do you just have to go with the flow and dive in?
Yeah, I will definitely embrace the weekend, have some fun with it and try and give the fans a reason to celebrate on Sunday.
How do you mentally prepare for the first race of the season, especially given the distance to travel to Melbourne?
We always arrive in Australia a bit early due to the time difference, this way we have a bit longer to acclimatise. The first two or three days you struggle with jetlag a bit but then it's fine because you are just really excited for the first race of the year.
Is that process made a bit easier by going out and about in the city?
I enjoy going to Melbourne; it's a cool city, nice environment and good weather, so generally a great place to stay. I found some nice restaurants down by the Yarra River, so whenever we have time I will head down there for some dinner.
I enjoy going to Melbourne
What about the race weekend itself, it is a nerve-wracking moment, finally getting to see where the car stands in the pecking order?
The first race is always exciting, as you never really know where you are in terms of performance with the car because everything is so new. This is reflected in the paddock too; it's a refreshing feeling.
Being Daniel's home grand prix he obviously gets a lot of support, which is very nice for him. I can't wait to feel the buzz of all the cars going out for the first practice and seeing the excitement on everyone's face.
2017 Australian GP stats:
- A podium in Australia would be the Team's 100th in F1
- A win for Daniel in Melbourne would be his first victory on home turf and would make him the first Australian to win a Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
- Should Max get pole position, it would be his first and the first in F1 for a Dutchman