Ricciardo downplays risk of F1 drivers missing Australian GP after ‘unicorn situation’

Australia has been absent from the Formula 1 calendar for the last two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has few concerns as to his home Australian Grand Prix going ahead this year, and insists that the last two years have been a freak situation that is unlikely to be repeated again.

Melbourne was set to hold its customary slot as the first race of the SEASON in 2020, but the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the event was cancelled just hours before the first practice session was set to get underway.

Formula 1 would rather astonishingly manage to pull together to hold 17 races that year, preceding the longest ever season in 2021, with 22 races taking place.

Australia was not one of them, joining the likes of Japan, Singapore and China in its incapacity to host a race due to the pandemic.

The Albert Park Circuit is now set to host the third round of the season after Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and, following the controversy surrounding tennis star Novak Djokovic, Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott has clarified that every member of the F1 paddock will need to be fully vaccinated if they want to contest the race.

“The rules are simple to get into the country and the rules are simple to operate in Formula 1,” he said, as per TalkSport.

“To come into the event you’ll be 100 per cent vaccinated and there won’t be an exemption sought for anyone from anyone.”

Ricciardo, who as a result of the pandemic spent nearly 20 months away from his home in Perth, is optimistic that the race in Melbourne will go ahead as scheduled this time.

“I think that was, hopefully, a bit of a unicorn of a situation. I’m confident that we’ll be back in April. I’m excited,” he said.

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The Albert Park Circuit has undergone significant change since 2019, with several corners widened, the chicane at Turns 9 and 10 turned into a sweeping, fast complex, and Turn 13 running deeper to allow for a better overtaking opportunity.

Ricciardo is enthused by the changes made to the circuit that, along with the brand-new cars, is aimed at promoting closer racing.

“There’s a new layout, so I think that’s exciting in itself,” he added.

“I’m definitely excited to get home.

“The new layout should be cool and if it is promoting more overtaking and these cars make it easier, then we’ll have a very different Melbourne Grand Prix to what we’ve had in previous years.

Speaking on vaccination protocol, the 32-year-old equivocates that as long as everyone is jabbed, there should be no issues.

“And as long as you’re vaccinated, I guess we’re all good to go,” he said.

Ricciardo is set to enter his second campaign with McLaren, and will again partner Lando Norris for the 2022 season that kicks off on 20 March in Sakhir.