Australian single-seater racer Daniel Ricciardo became the new rising star of British Formula 3 by scoring a double win at the 2009 season opener at Oulton Park last weekend.
In doing so, he also became the first driver to win a British F3 race with Volkswagen power since Steve Robertson, at Thruxton, almost 18 years ago. AUTOSPORT'S British F3 correspondent Ben Anderson sat down with him after the race.
Q. How was your first weekend racing in British F3?
Daniel Ricciardo: Better than I expected actually, it's gone really well and I've made a dream start to the championship.
I really like the track. Out of the English circuits we've been too, it's my favourite.
Coming here, after testing last month, I knew we had a pretty good chance to walk away with two wins. Not that I was expecting too, but I was hoping!
Q. You didn't seem entirely comfortable with the car after qualifying, where you didn't find any time between sessions, and it looked a handful in race one - what were you struggling with?
DR: I wasn't 100 per cent happy with my race set-up and [Nick] Tandy gave me a really hard time in race one. We struggled with high-speed understeer in qualifying and I was having to be really tentative on the kerbs in race one, but we made some changes for race two and the tyres seemed to last at a higher pace for longer, which made things much easier for me! It was cool and I'll have to try and keep things like this for as long as possible, because I'm sure the others are keen to catch me.
Q. Are there any circuits where you think you might struggle this season?
DR: I hope I'm going to be strong everywhere, but I'm not sure yet. Testing at Silverstone International the other week was just okay – nothing too special from me – so we've got some work to do there, but I don't think it's really a problem and, if it is, I'm sure it's one we can solve.
Q. What have been your biggest challenges coming into this championship from the Formula Renault Eurocup?
DR: Compared to Renault, the F3 is obviously a heavier, faster car, so physically I've had to increase my training from last year. Also, getting used to using a handbrake for the starts and getting the technique has been tricky, but I seem to have got it nailed this weekend! I'm aware I've just got to keep learning, but I now feel I'm at the level where I have an understanding of what the car can do and can get the most out of it. My relationship with my engineer is getting better and we're making good progress.
Q. Who do you think your biggest rival will be this season?
DR: I think this weekend proved there's quite a few of us who can fight for race wins. Nick Tandy was always going to be strong, Walter [Grubmuller], with his F3 experience, he's started well. Max [Chilton] impressed with his pole, and [Daisuke] Nakajima in his first British F3 race was right up there, T-Sport were good at the Silverstone test and, although their guys didn't have the best weekend here, if they can find their form they'll be in the fight at the next round. So it's quite hard to say, but for sure there are a few guys who can do it. As for me, I'm just going to take each race as it comes.