'I knew then': Daniel Ricciardo's 'bombshell' Australian GP claim

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Daniel Ricciardo has spoken about the Australian Open 'bombshell' that doomed his home GP. Pic: Getty
Daniel Ricciardo has spoken about the Australian Open 'bombshell' that doomed his home GP. Pic: Getty

Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo has revealed the moment he realised the Australian Grand Prix was doomed.

The Aussie is itching to get back to racing with the sport, like most others around the world, put on hold amid the coronavirus crisis.

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The year's first race was the first major Australian sporting event to be cancelled as the full extent of the global pandemic started to become clearer.

Ricciardo said he was already unsure whether the race would go ahead after initial doubts about whether Ferrari would be allowed to compete.

The race was thrown into further doubt when one McLaren and two Haas team members were tested for COVID-19.

When the McLaren official tested positive for the deadly virus, the inevitability of the race being cancelled grew stronger by the hour.

Ricciardo said up until Thursday evening he was preparing as if the race was going ahead, but the McLaren "bombshell" destroyed any notion of that happening.

“It was weird being there, and even on Thursday I was preparing myself to compete that weekend,” Ricciardo told Talk Sport Radio.

“But I was never certain it was going to happen. I knew there was a slight risk it could all get pulled last minute.

“The bombshell for me was really when I went to bed on Thursday night, and just before I went to sleep I saw McLaren had pulled out of the race, because of the case within their team.

“I then stayed up for probably another three hours trying to fish out a bit more information, but I knew then we weren’t going to race without a full grid.

“To be honest, I was no longer comfortable with it either; I was like, ‘Look, this is the first race of the season, either we are all in it or we’re not, that’s just how it is’.”

Ricciardo has revealed the best-case scenario for when the F1 season will likely resume is July, despite races still appearing on the calendar for June.

The Aussie says regardless of when he can get back to racing, the safety of the public and the battle against the coronavirus crisis is his top priority.

“What I’m seeing in the news is that most places have taken the measures they’ve need to – with lockdowns and not leaving your house – so I feel the sooner everyone starts to contain it that should be the right direction to finally say goodbye to this virus,” he said.

“That gives me confidence that sooner rather than later we will see it go off, but for now, from a point of view of the racing, I just want to get racing.

“Obviously Melbourne was a disappointment to not happen, but for sure I want to do it when people’s health is back where it should be. That is the priority.”

Red Bull boss wanted to deliberately infect drivers

Ricciardo's comments come after revelations Red Bull Racing boss Helmut Marko wanted to deliberately infect his drivers with COVID-19 while there were no races being held.

Marko says he wanted to carry out the plan in a bid to ensure they would be ready to resume racing once the pandemic had passed.

It comes after Marko was earlier criticised for suggesting driver Max Verstappen should intentionally try to catch the virus.

The deadly disease has claimed the lives of nearly 37,000 people worldwide as of March 31, but this was apparently not enough of a disincentive for Marko.

Seen here, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and team boss Helmut Marko.
Max Verstappen has a discussion with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko during the 2019 F1 season. Pic: Getty

The 76-year-old Austrian says his plan was “not very well received” by other officials at Red Bull Racing.

His plan had been to bring the team’s F1 and junior drivers to a camp, which Marko said would be “the ideal time for the infection to come”.

“We have four Formula 1 drivers and eight or 10 juniors, and the idea was that we would organise a camp to mentally and physically bridge the dead time,” he said during an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF.

“They are all strong young men in good health.

“That way they would be prepared whenever the action starts.”

Predictably, Marko’s plan was given short shrift by management.

“Let's put it this way: it has not been well received," Marko said.

Many fans and motorsport industry figures were left baffled by the bizarre and incredibly risky plan to put the drivers’ lives at risk.

Former F1 driver Felipe Massa described Marko’s comments as ‘completely insane’ on Twitter, while many others were also disappointed in the senior figure from Red Bull.