Ricciardo’s Christmas wish? A fast car by March

So what does formula one racer Daniel Ricciardo want for Christmas?

“For Christmas, a cold beer would be enough, but for March a fast car,” the West Australian Formula One driver said on Wednesday after enjoying a kick with West Coast players in Perth during his break back home.

After finishing third in the world championship, Ricciardo has high hopes that next year’s new design regulations will further close the gap between his Red Bull and the dominant Mercedes, but he concedes he’s still winding down after a tiring 21-round season.

“It’s tiring, it’s taxing and the seasons are long; you know this was our longest season ever,” he said, acknowledging the decision of reigning champion Nico Rosberg to vacate his Mercedes seat by retiring within a week of claiming the title.

“Let’s say, at the time, it [Rosberg’s decision] surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it, but once I realised it I understood it,” Ricciardo said.

“I understand that. I mean, yeah, to have a family and do everything and to be under that stress and pressure. And he’s been doing it ??? not only is he older than me, he has been in it his whole life. His dad was a champion, so even before he was racing his life was probably heavily involved in the sport.

“And then it’s been four weeks since the last race and yet we are still talking about F1, so it doesn’t really stop, which takes its toll. So I understand it from his point of view.”

Ricciardo is comfortable that the wider tyres and lower-slung car designs will play to Red Bull’s aerodynamic strengths and, having extended his contract during the year, said he was never in the running to take Rosberg’s place at Mercedes.

“I’m sure a lot of people wanted it. Let’s be honest, it is currently the best seat in terms of speed and whatnot. I said it from once I heard the news: whoever gets that seat better know what they are getting and better appreciate it because it is not every day that someone offers the best seat in the house. So, sure, it is a very good one to be in and, whoever ends up getting the nod, hopefully they run with it. I obviously don’t want them to beat me, but hopefully they don’t take it for granted.”

Ricciardo thinks that Mercedes will be the team to beat again.

“It depends who they sign up, but obviously Lewis [Hamilton] will be hard to beat whoever they do, but it is one of those ones. Teams dominate in F1 and they sort of go through their periods, but with rule changes and that I still think that Mercedes will be quick. If the rules were the same next year then it would be a no-brainer that is the seat that everyone wants, but with a few changes it might just make it a little more questionable, but I still think they’ll be very strong.”

As for his fitness, Ricciardo knows there’s hard work ahead as extra muscle and stamina will be required with car speeds likely to increase by as much as five seconds a lap.

“It’s really just off-season time, but once January starts my trainer comes over ??? he’ll come to Perth straight after the new year and we’ll get a bit of a head start here and then head off from here,” Ricciardo said.

“The team will be in touch every now and then and maybe ask a couple of things, but more driver comfort things as opposed to design and that. I’ll be honest, in terms of design and that I’m nowhere near capable of telling the guys what shape that part should be ??? but I guess where I’m sort of strong is once we drive the car, it’s then telling them what I think we should do now.”

And his title chances?

“We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. You definitely need everything to fall into place, but I personally feel ready. Definitely hungry enough that’s for sure.”

# An extended interview with Daniel Ricciardo will be published in the Saturday Age.