ENSTONE, England (Reuters) - Hand on heart, and kitted out in new black and yellow overalls, Daniel Ricciardo says it feels right to be with Renault — even if he has yet to develop a Frenchman’s taste for frogs’ legs and snails.
The smiling Australian, a seven times race winner with Red Bull, is preparing for a new chapter in his Formula One career at a team eager to get back to the top after returning as constructors in 2016.
His decision was not an easy one, with plenty of nights spent agonising before he made his mind up on a flight from London to Los Angeles last August, but he has no doubts now about the move.
“Even if I really didn’t feel it, I’d probably try and make up something that it did feel right. But, hand on heart, it does feel right,” Ricciardo told reporters ahead of the launch of his team’s new car on Tuesday.
“The process of deciding what to do was stressful but once I’d literally made the call, I was instantly de-stressed and that hasn’t changed.”
The Australian’s relaxed and bubbly personality, and laughing manner, have already put a spring in the step of his new team mates.
Ricciardo had the assembled factory workforce eating out of his hand as he addressed them on Monday night, assuring them he was “stoked” and “it all feels real now in the suit.
“I definitely feel part of the team,” he declared. “From the few I have met already, you’re not bad. I think we can become friends.”
Renault Sport Racing managing director Cyril Abiteboul told reporters that Ricciardo could be the spark needed to ignite the team on track.
“It’s been a huge boost, a huge motivation,” he said of the Australian’s arrival alongside German Nico Hulkenberg.
“We’ve put a lot of the right ingredients in three years in terms of people, resources, investment but at some point you need something that is igniting the mixture.
“And that is the sort of thing I’d like to see coming from Daniel.”
Ricciardo said his dream was to do at Renault, world champions in 2005 and 2006, what five times world champion Lewis Hamilton has achieved with Mercedes after his well-timed move from McLaren.
“There’s definitely part of that which inspires me. If I was able to do that here I wouldn’t complain,” he said.
Other aspects of working for a French team were more of an acquired taste.
“I did eat snails and frogs’ legs and pigs’ feet the other day. That was my induction into being French,” he revealed with a grin, recalling a trip to Paris with food served up by a leading chef.
“Knowing they were things I wouldn’t (normally) eat kind of put me off. So the frogs’ legs, I didn’t know what they were. And when I ate them I was like ‘ah, it’s kind of chicken or fish’. So it wasn’t that bad.
“Then when he told me it was frogs’ legs...”
Editing by Peter Rutherford