By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo is ready to “unlock the hidden Honey Badger” when he starts training for next season’s new-look Formula One.
The Australian, nicknamed after the cuddly but ferocious animal, finished third overall this year, the best of the rest behind the Mercedes pair, and said in a column for Red Bull he was looking forward to a harder off-season workout.
The 2017 regulations, with wider tyres and revised aerodynamics, should make the cars faster through the corners and harder to handle, which puts more of a premium on driver strength.
“We’ll have to change some things up in the preparation, and the in-season training will change too,” said Ricciardo.
“In the past few years we’ve concentrated on things like trimming weight and keeping kilos off, and the training itself isn’t that challenging. Next year will be different.
“Being able to put on some strength and muscle will be more challenging and more rewarding, so I’m up for that. I’m all for making it harder. Time to unlock the hidden Honey Badger,” added Ricciardo, who has as a picture of the animal on the back of his racing helmet.
The Australian, who won in Malaysia in October and started on pole in Monaco, shed more than three kilograms before the start of the 2016 season in a bid to improve performance.
Former champions Red Bull were handicapped in 2015 by their uncompetitive Renault engine and sought other ways of closing the gap, one of them being reducing weight where possible.
Ricciardo said third place in 2016 felt more convincing and more sustainable than it had in 2014.
“This year I felt like I did everything I did in ’14, but at a higher level when I really pushed myself,” added the Australian, who had 19-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen pushing him hard from May onwards.
“I was able to find some pretty good levels through the year, and there were quite a few times that I was able to exceed my own expectations for what I thought I could do, maybe even surprise myself a bit.”
Otherwise, Ricciardo said he was looking to get home and relax once his team commitments were over.
“It’s little things that I get to experience again in the off-season that make me realize why I love being home when I can be. My mates treating me like an idiot, basically,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)