October 21, 2021 McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Grand Prix
Daniel Ricciardo thinks he might once have taken the Australian Grand Prix for granted but three years without any Formula One action at Albert Park has left him hankering for a race on home soil.
The 32-year-old will get his wish this weekend when the world championship circuit returns to Melbourne for the first time since the 2020 race was called off at the 11th hour as the COVID-19 pandemic first took a grip on Australia.
The eight-times Grand Prix winner's last race in Melbourne, his first for Renault, was effectively ended in the first few seconds when he lost his front end in the trackside grass, leaving him with even more of a sense of longing.
"In a way, it's kind of like, 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone'," the Australian told the Herald Sun newspaper.
"When I look back, obviously we were there in 2020 but we did not race, we were there in 2019 but my race did not last very long.
"It feels like the last time I actually had a proper race there was in 2018 so it has been a long time so I am very, very excited to get back.
"Whether we are competitive or not I think just to race on home soil will be a good time."
Now in his second season at McLaren, Ricciardo has good reason to question the competitiveness of his car after finishing 14th at the season-opener in Bahrain and being forced to retire in Saudi Arabia.
That is a stark contrast with his former team Red Bull, who have already got their first win of the season through world champion Max Verstappen.
Ricciardo, who twice finished fourth at Albert Park with Red Bull, accepts that there will always be questions about his decision to walk away from the team at the end of the 2018 season.
"It doesn’t bother me," he added. "Obviously at the time I felt like that was the right thing for me. You kind of stand by that ...
"It's not something I look back on and regret it, or think I should have done differently."
Source: Reuters / Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford
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