AS spoke to the Australian Red Bull driver, in his last season with the team, and discussed F1, Alonso, Sainz and the secret of his constant smile.
- What’s your analysis of this season?
- Oh, I don’t know (laughs)…confusing. Confusing because, eh, I mean not confusing, but it’s hard to analyse it because it started so strong and then it just started to fall away. And I still don’t really know why it fell away, in terms of me personally, I didn’t change anything since Monaco. OK maybe I partied for a few days… that’s a joke. But I didn’t do anything different since then but it didn’t really work out how I thought it would. I just tried to understand it, tried to be better, but it’s been very, a season of two halves. I still don’t really look back on it negatively. Monaco was still such a big achievement for me, that I would happily repeat the season with that.
- It’s interesting because you got two victories but no podiums. Incredible, no?
- Crazy. I don’t know how that’s possible.
- This year you finish your career at Red Bull…
- It’s been fun, for sure. It’s been a massive part of my career. We’ve both helped each other but they, for sure, helped me more, giving me the opportunity to race with the best teams at the highest level. I repaid them with the results but they created that platform for me. It’s been awesome - I’ve had some good experiences off-track as well, playing ice hockey, football, motocross, flying in all these different helicopters, planes… It’s been fun and I don’t know how much longer my racing career will be but I’ll look back and think of me and Red Bull together, that’s going to be the biggest part of my career.
- But you’ll always remember you were once in a Spanish team…
Yeah, yeah. That was a long time ago, but even that was interesting. For sure the team wasn’t fast, but Red Bull still gave me the opportunity to be in F1 and to start learning, and that was important.
- Next season, it’s a new era for you. What is your goal?
- My goal is to…I think a few things. As a team to get their best result possible. I don’t know now what their best is for the last few years, but if it’s sixth, I want to finish fifth, for example. I also want to prove to myself and to other people that it was the right decision, I guess to prove some people wrong. And just grow with the team and to feel the progress, to be part of that, and to feel like their investment in me was worthwhile.
- Everyone thinks you have the potential to be world champion… but do you have a date to win it?
- Five years ago! [laughs] I mean, 2014 I believe I drove well enough to be world champion that year. So for me it’s already overdue but now, starting this next journey, realistically I would say 2021, I want to be world champion that year.
- In the next few years there are a lot of young rivals – Leclerk, Verstappen, Carlos Sainz – which for you is the most dangerous?
- I think like so many sports now, everyone is starting younger and younger, the simulators will get better so the kids will get to this level quicker so I think the generations that keep coming through will be better and better. I think I need to do like Valentino Rossi has done, constantly evolved with the sport, changed his riding style, done a few things to progress himself. This is going to be the most important thing for me. Lewis [Hamilton] has been doing this and now when I start to transition into the older driver, this is my task.
- Next year you will take Carlos Sainz’s position. Do you think he is a potential world champion?
- I think there’s potential. He’s not yet been in a car that has given him a podium, so it’s hard to know, until you’re in a race-winning car, how good you are. It’s a bit like Max [Verstappen], people knew he was good but until he was with Red Bull, then they saw ‘OK, actually he’s really good, he’s winning, and consistent, and can handle the pressure’. I think Carlos has this potential as well, these capabilities, but until the person is with a winning car it’s hard to say. But if he’s with a winning car, I think he will do very well.
- Speaking of Spanish people, it’s the last season of Fernando Alonso…
- He’s a big part of the history of F1. History, I think will say, yes he was world champion, but people will say he was better than two world titles. So in a way it’s sad for him, but it’s also very good for him that people see him so high, they compare him to people with five titles, and things like that. When I was young, watching him, I really liked his passion. He’s a real racer, he loves racing, he doesn’t do it for the fame, he does it because believes he is the best – this I admire.
- Formula 1 is a sport where the human factor is maybe not that important. Is that frustrating?
- Very frustrating. I’m too old now to change sport but if I was to live another life, not that I don’t enjoy this one, but knowing what I know, I would like to do a sport which was more on the human performance. Growing up I loved tennis; I was a big fan of tennis and for me I see this sport as being much more how sport should be, including F1.
- Nadal or Federer?
- Nadal, I love Federer, but I love Nadal. I love his left arm… [laughs]
- But talking of sport and the importance of talent…
- Yeah, there are so many frustrating days with this sport that I wish I was doing something else sometimes.
- You are always smiling. What is your secret?
- I think my secret is perspective. Perspective, a lot of people forget. What is a bad day? For me it may be finishing in fifth place; a bad day for someone else could be getting fired, or could be getting shot in war or in the street. It’s perspective. A bad day for me is the best day for someone else. I think this is very important to understand perspective. Naturally I’m a competitor and I’ll never be happy with fifth, but OK it’s not really a bad day, maybe a bad moment, but not a bad day. I’m still waking up in a nice hotel room somewhere, and I just enjoy being happy, I don’t like being sad, I like having a good time so part of me wants to find the perspective because I don’t want to be sad.
- How do you imagine yourself when you are 50 years old?
- [Laughs] I hope not fat. I hope…
- With children?
- Yeah, yeah. Now I’m not ready but I would like kids one day, for sure. With some children, it would be cool, I could play some sports with them. I would like to have been successful in something else by the time I’m 50. If I just had racing, I don’t know, I would like to create something else and have another passion in another 20 years.
MF: What makes you happy?
DR: Sunshine! If the weather is good I’m happy. It was cold where I came from. I got here on Saturday and when we landed I walked out of the airport and it was hot. I took off my jumper and immediately I was happy, I was like, ‘ahhhh’. So yeah, sunshine.
MF: OK. Thank you.
DR: De nada!