ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo is ready for tears, and maybe a few celebratory beers, as the cheerful Australian gears up for his 100th and last race with Red Bull in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
“Going out with a bang” may not be the best expression for a driver who has experienced agonising engine failures this season, but he would certainly like to make some noise — and maybe a splash also.
“I heard one of the headlines was ‘expecting tears’ or something,” the future Renault driver grinned ahead of practice at the Yas Marina circuit on Friday.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll cry, maybe I won’t….I’m sure once it all settles on Sunday night I might have a moment,” he added.
Ricciardo was second fastest in Friday’s free practice, and third in the second, with Dutch team mate Max Verstappen first and second respectively.
Red Bull have been pushing Mercedes and Ferrari hard as the season nears its finale, with Verstappen winning in Mexico and denied another victory in Brazil two weeks ago by a collision with Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
Ricciardo has no grid penalty worries this time and there will be no team orders either, with both championships already won by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
“I’m actually excited, not because it’s the last one but more to the thought of finishing off in style and finishing off — I don’t want to say with a bang because that will sound not positive — but in high spirits,” he said.
“Let’s have one last crack together, let’s enjoy it,” he added. “It’s been an awesome ride the last five years so let’s use every last bit of what we’ve got together to try and make it a successful weekend.
“Then Sunday night we’ll party, drink and celebrate and maybe feel sad as well.”
Team principal Christian Horner agreed it would be great to see a driver who has won in China and Monaco this year go out in style.
Asked if he might have a surprise in store for him, Horner shot back immediately with: “A reliable car”.
“We just want to sign off on a real high with him. He’s been a really popular member of our team, he’s driven so well over those last 100 races. Seven victories, we’d love to see him finish on a high,” he added, more seriously.
In Monaco, Ricciardo jumped into the harbour as he celebrated his victory and Yas Marina offers a similar opportunity.
“Monaco was a big moment for him and the team and nothing would give us more pleasure than seeing him do that in the harbour on Sunday night,” said Horner.
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Ed Osmond)