Daniel Ricciardo admits that the opening race of the 2021 F1 season in Bahrain will be a special occasion, both for himself and for his new team.
McLaren have links to Bahrain, due to the Bahrain sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat Holding Co holding a 56 percent stake in the McLaren Group, so the venue is significant to them. But with the race marking Ricciardo's first with the papaya squad, it will also be one to remember for the Australian driver.
"I’m really excited for the start of the season," Ricciardo said in a statement from McLaren. "It’s the beginning of a new chapter, my first race in papaya and I can’t wait to get started. It’s also a special race with Bahrain being the team’s home-from-home.
"In my first few months at McLaren the team has made me feel right at home in such a short space of time. I feel confident and comfortable going into the new season, which is important as I want to get the most out of the car right from race one."
McLaren seemed to have a positive few days at the pre-season test in Bahrain, and Ricciardo - who will race for the team alongside Lando Norris this year - thinks that this has helped his preparation for the first grand prix on 28 March.
"As a team we made the most of pre-season testing with some smooth running," the Australian explained. "It was great to get to grips with the MCL35M in just the few days that we had to put it through its paces. I think, naturally, it takes a bit of time to adjust to a new car, but I’m feeling prepared to hit the track come Friday.
"It’s an exciting circuit with a few big braking zones and plenty of opportunities for overtaking. Racing at dusk is always cool and brings an added challenge to the weekend."
Whilst it is still unclear who will emerge as favourites until the season begins, one thing for certain is that Ricciardo will give it his all. "This season looks like it’s going to be a competitive one, but I’m looking to hit the ground running, leave nothing on the table, give it my all for the team and hopefully give the fans something to smile about."