On the water with F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo in Miami

MIAMI — Daniel Ricciardo’s smile has never been wider. With country music blaring from the speakers aboard his personal watercraft, the eight-time Grand Prix winner joins ESPN on the open water with the sun on his skin and the seawater in his hair.

More than 300 meters from shore, it’s one of the most unusual interview locations for driver and journalist, but there couldn’t be a more fitting backdrop ahead of Formula 1’s inaugural race in Miami. .

“Pretty cool, huh? he tells ESPN as he turns off the engine and we go up and down in the turquoise waters. “It’s a first for me too.”

As we speak, there are five days until race day and Ricciardo has spent the morning tearing his new car around a small island in Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

It’s a mix of work and play as he takes charge of a film crew on a boat, capturing footage for an upcoming product launch for Sea-Doo – a 300 horsepower toymaker for the water. Ricciardo is the new face of the brand, and today it’s all about securing images of sun, sea and smiles in the perfect postcard setting.

Ricciardo’s Water Playground is a lagoon located between Miami Beach and downtown. The calm, clear waters were closed to the public by the local sheriff so the McLaren driver could let loose, and so far he hasn’t held back.

After more than a decade in Formula 1, Ricciardo is no stranger to adrenaline, but he’s clearly still buzzing when it comes to mid-morning interviews. His usual ride – a 1,000 horsepower F1 under braking – subjects his body to five times the force of gravity in high-speed corners, but after driving it for 11 years he’s somewhat used to it.

Being on the water, however, is a new kind of thrill.

“I was building my confidence there, but I had to be like, ‘Don’t be too confident’ because I still don’t really know what I’m doing!

“It definitely scared me a bit. I think it’s because being on the water is a bit out of my comfort zone, but usually it’s just because it’s very fast. .

“They say you can go 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds with this thing. I’m happy to wear gloves because you need good grip to hold on to them.

“I mean, it looks really fast. I guess it looks really fast too?”

It does. Although he is still getting used to the machine, Ricciardo immediately impressed the Sea-Doo employees.

“I didn’t expect him to make such a hard turn,” one said as we watched Ricciardo from an island in the lagoon. The 32-year-old had tilted the watercraft on the throttle as it came within inches of a buoy marking out a racing “track” on the water.

Even so, Ricciardo insists he was holding back a bit – fearing injury ahead of Sunday’s big event.

“I have to remember that I have to race this weekend! I almost forgot that there.”

This is where country music comes in – it helps to sweeten the mood.

“I feel like it’s a country music vibe here today,” he says. “Music and a machine, that’s all I want in life!

“If I could listen to music when I was racing in F1, I think I would be faster. I would be the world champion who could have been with music!”

This begs the question, what would be the best music for an F1 race?

“I would start with something heavier, whether it was punk rock or hip-hop, then as the race progressed I would soften it up to try and get in the zone.

“Maybe some silky electronic music to keep you a bit in rhythm.”

Away from F1, Ricciardo says he often uses different forms of motorized transport to let off steam. His ultimate three-machine garage doesn’t include an F1 car, but rather a 110cc motocross bike, a two-seater off-road buggy and his new Sea-Doo, which he describes as a motorbike for water .

He’s been racing cars his entire career, but the world of two wheels is increasingly what interests him and will likely provide his kicks when he finally gives up racing.

“I’ve always been fascinated by two wheels,” he says. “When I was growing up I watched two-wheel racing as much as four-wheel racing, whether it was motorcycle racing, dirt bike racing or freestyle motocross, I was so into it.

“Over the years, because I’ve spent so much time on four wheels, I’ve had more interest in two wheels because it’s still new and exciting to me.

“That’s something I want to do when I retire from F1 is to learn how to improve on these bikes and on dirt bikes.”

So could he move on to anything other than racing cars?

“No, not in competition. Just for fun.

“My competition gene will be worn out after F1. I plan to burn all the wicks in F1, and it will be just for fun after that.

“I’ll still get the adrenaline out of it, like days like today, but I’ll be looking to enjoy the thrill rather than looking to be faster than the guy next to me.”

With the sun reappearing behind a cloud, the conditions are right for more content capture and it’s time for Ricciardo to get back to “work”. The film crew on the boat have more plans to secure and no desire to have a reporter in frame with their superstar.

Ricciardo turns on his Sea-Doo again, the country music returns and he sets off for another tour of the island.

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