DANIEL Ricciardo has always tried to keep his private life secret, but a report claims his romantic secret is out.
The Aussie Formula 1 star has previously refused to comment on his personal life and is yet to speak publicly about a report in The Daily Mail, which claims he’s been secretly dating German beauty Annemarie Horbass, who works with an event management company associated with Red Bull.
The report claims Ricciardo’s Formula 1 colleagues have confirmed the pair have been dating after they were spotted celebrating together following the Aussie driver’s dramatic victory at the Monaco Grand Prix last month.
They reportedly spent the Sunday night in Monaco after the race at the same nightclub and were spotted sitting next to each other on a luxury yacht alongside Red Bull colleagues as they celebrated the team’s Grand Prix victory.
An unidentified colleague of Ricciardo reportedly told The Mail the relationship is, “Nothing too serious just yet”.
Horbass is an event management specialist who works with German media company Eventureline — used by Red Bull for assignments across the Formula 1 calendar.
The 24-year-old stunner has been spotted working on pit lane at several grands prix this year and has travelled to Melbourne and Sydney.
She is reportedly the first woman linked to a relationship with the 28-year-old driver since his break up with his childhood girlfriend Jemma Boskovich at the beginning of 2016.
Ricciardo has previously blamed his hectic Formula 1 schedule for the relationship breakdown.
Ricciardo made an appearance on KIIS 1065’s Kyle and Jackie O and became trapped in an awkward conversation for a man in his newly-single situation.
Asked by Jackie O if he’d ever visited the private Fijian island owned by Red Bull’s billionaire founder Dietrich Mateschitz, Ricciardo said he’d been invited but was yet to make the trip.
“I know why,” Sandilands interjected.
“Because Daniel’s with his high school sweetheart. He’s not like the rest of these F1 drivers who are banging Rihanna and Pussycat Dolls. He’s a decent bloke. He’s with the same bird since he’s been at school.”
Ricciardo appeared to make an attempt to rein Sandilands in, but the shock jock ploughed on. “Whether he regrets it or not, I don’t know. But what a gentleman. Because most guys would get famous — world fame like this, being an F1 driver that’s nothing to sneeze at — and see all his mates taking off with superstars, and then he’s got to go home and mow the lawn like any other Aussie. Is that right, Daniel?”
“Ah, this is awkward,” Ricciardo responded.
“Why, you haven’t split up have you? Don’t tell me that,” Jackie O said.
“It’s all good,” Ricciardo said. “Next subject.”
A few days later Ricciardo was quoted declaring: “I’m probably never going to do an interview with those guys ever again.
“I am single, but yeah, details and all that… it’s not new, by the way, not new news.”
The Supercars season is less than two weeks away from kicking off in Adelaide at the end of the month and fans, drivers and engineers got a first look at what they’ll be dealing with at Phillip Island on Thursday.
All 24 cars were out on track, showing off their new liveries in action – except for Garry Rogers Motorsport, who used testing livery, much like they do in MotoGP.
Here’s five things we learned from the Phillip Island test…
There was a fear that the Mustangs might take some time to get up to speed with their Holden rivals but looking at the timings at the end of the day for the test made very good reading. Tickford’s Cameron Waters put in a quickest lap of 1:30.72secs to pip DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard by just 0.011secs.
They were joined by a third Mustang at the top as Chaz Mostert got around third quickest in his Supercheap Auto-backed car. David Reynolds, who set the pace at the halfway point was drove the only Holden in the top five as Tickford-run 23Red Racing’s Will Davison finished fifth. The only other Mustangs belonged to Lee Holdsworth and reigning champion Scott McLaughlin, both of whom finished in the top 10.
It’s a strong sign that not only will the Mustangs will be fully up to speed by the time Adelaide rolls around in two weeks’ time, but Tickford Racing might have rid themselves of their 2018 troubles. It’s early days, but promising ones for the teams running the Mustangs.
…But there are still plenty of kinks to work out
Top sportsmen rarely rest on their laurels, and despite the rapid debut of the Mustang, all was not right in the Tickford garage, with Tim Edwards revealing the drivers were complaining about the handling of the car.
“To be blunt, the drivers reckon the cars are handling terribly at the moment, they’re not happy at all with it. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he told Supercars.com. “That’s a combination of understanding the aero package and the lack of twin-springs [banned for 2019 in the name of cost containment].
“We’ve had to completely change the geometry of the car to what we ran at Newcastle. The guys aren’t happy with it at the moment, there’s a lot of work to do.”
That means the Tickford garage will be a busy place between now and Adelaide, if they are to get the steering to the place it was at the end of last season. Although, they’re not the only team with improvements needing to be made…
Red Bull’s traditional fast start under threat
Red Bull Holden Racing Team manager Mark Dutton has said there are no excuses for his team’s slow start to the season during the test as Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup wound up in 14th and 19th respectively.
While the test was the first time that the new control parts and technical rules were enforced, it was the same for all of the teams and Dutton conceded Triple Eight have a lot of work to do before Adelaide.
“We need to make sure that we get on top of it,” Dutton said. “Our set-ups, in the rear in particular, were very, very non-linear in the past. So we’re making a big change.
“We definitely got through some good learning today, some good testing, but what you see on the timesheets, that’s not because we didn’t have enough tyres. There’s no excuses. We just need to analyse exactly what we did.”
This will especially be a source of frustration for Van Gisbergen, whose hopes of winning in Adelaide for the third consecutive year would have taken a serious knock after Phillip Island.
The Mustang ISN’T the most important change
Introducing the Mustang is a big move for DJRTP but according to McLaughlin it isn’t the biggest change that was happening in their factory during the off-season.
The Kiwi said the ban on the multiple-spring set-ups that have dominated Supercars in recent years was the change his team focused most on and his day at Phillip Island was to test that, rather than the actual Mustang.
“The aero map for us was good,” McLaughlin said. “But the linear spring was a big thing, trying to get used to how to drive it and how to give feedback back to Ludo [Lacroix, engineer].
“I’ve got to give something away. With the twin-spring you could rescue it in other parts of the corner, but now if you’ve got really good front you’ve got really s*** rear. You’ve got to 50-50 it up a bit. Or be prepared to have something.
“That took us longer to get used to. I felt like we had a really solid day getting used to that. I feel like we were OK at the end.”
So will McLaughlin and the two Red Bulls be going into Adelaide undercooked?
It takes time to adjust to new surroundings
Mark Winterbottom was left with more questions than answers after the Phillip Island test after problems with his IRWIN Racing Holden bookended his day on track.
Winterbottom is in a Holden for the first time after 13 years at Tickford but while his old team performed strongly, he was left languishing in 16th after a front-bar issue caused initial trouble before an electronics glitch at the end of the day.
“It feels different, there’s no doubt,” he said of the ZB compared to the Tickford Falcon he raced last year. “It’s not the fact it’s a Commodore to a Falcon that’s different, it’s the set-up philosophy behind it and all the componentry.
“We ran pretty close to Van Gisbergen and Whincup all day in terms of competitiveness and lap times. Clearly the rule changes have had a fair impact on some teams, but it is different to drive.
“There’s parts where I thought ‘this is amazing’ and parts where I thought we can improve. If we can maintain its strengths and compliment it with some more, that’s what it’s about.”
It will also be the first time we get a look at the new front wing which Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn hopes will improve overtaking with cars being able to follow each other more closely.
However, while those changes would suit the overtaking abilities of Ricciardo, the 29-year-old isn’t as hopeful as Brawn that the amendments will make that much difference to the cars.
“Testing is super important to build my relationship with the engineer and the car crew and the guys that I’m going to be interacting with every weekend,” he told FoxSport.com.au.
“The personnel have always been really cool from day one, very welcoming, down-to-earth, normal. No one has had an intimidating presence, they’ve just been warm and welcoming and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible.
“I don’t expect the changes to be dramatic. I would like to think they have some effect but I don’t think it will turn the racing 180 [degrees].
“It is still going to be naturally difficult to follow cars, it’s not going to all of a sudden become 100 per cent easier. It will be difficult. I would like to say while it won’t completely cure it, it will be a step better. But hard to say.
“I wouldn’t be sold on it will be a whole new form of racing, as much as I would love to say that. I don’t think the change is significant to do that.”
But in 2019? It seems this is a different McLaren.
Not only has Brown made drastic changes behind the scenes in Woking but he also has a young, motivated new driver line-up in place, one without a world champion in its ranks for the first time in over a decade. That in itself has perhaps produced lower expectations, but this is a McLaren team with a fresh outlook and understanding of the enormity of the challenge ahead.
Brown refused to make outright predictions for the upcoming season, claiming this was now a “rebuilding process” and a “journey”, while sporting director Gil de Ferran admitted the key word for McLaren this team was “humility”.
“Obviously when we made the change last year, we were probably a bit overexcited about how quickly we would return to the front and we got that wrong,” Brown acknowledged.
The team’s CEO continued: “I don’t think it’s now or never, but it’s obviously a very important year, that we show a big step forward.
“We’ve looked at that mirror to understand where we went wrong, made a lot of changes, both structurally and operationally, and so is this a very important year to show forward progress.”
New faces breed new optimism
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Brown and De Ferran waxed lyrical about Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, declaring Carlos is ready to stand up as the team’s leader, and insisting Lando would hit the ground running.
Together, the pair “represent the new generation of Formula 1 talent”, according to Brown, who said they are “an integral part of the team and our collective effort to advance McLaren forward”.
Brown added the changes off the track – McLaren’s will have a new managing director and technical director starting this season in Andreas Seidl and James Key – will ensure Formula 1 is the team’s main focus.
“We needed to make sure that before we take on any other activities, that we have all the resources dedicated to Formula 1 because what we won’t do is have any distractions to our F1 team,” said Brown.
Seidl is set to begin work on May 1, while McLaren will confirm Key’s start date in the coming weeks.
The long road back begins here
The road back to F1 glory is now a mid to long-term project for McLaren, but it seems they are not expecting too many changes in terms of the pecking order until an anticipated major rules overhaul in 2021.
Brown spoke in depth about the current regulations, citing what he believed was a worrying ‘B team’ trend, while he also claimed McLaren, Renault and Williams were “staying true to the sport”.
“You’ve got a few manufacturers and owners that are spending a tremendous amount of money that we can’t compete with financially,” he explained. “And then they’ve created these relationships with these ‘B’ teams which benefit the ‘A’ teams, so they’re just getting that much more money.
“Everyone is playing within the rules but I think the rules have got away and allowed this dynamic that is not healthy for the sport. Those are going to change.
“So I think the next two years will remain difficult for anyone to catch the top two, three teams.
“The grid now is very strong. If you look back, the last couple of teams on the grid have been weak, but if you look at Sauber, Alfa Romeo now, and Toro Rosso, these are strong racing teams.
“We’re excited in the direction Chase Carey and Ross Brawn are taking the sport, we think that will level the playing field, not only for McLaren, but also the entire grid and help put on a better show for the fans.”
Sainz makes home at McLaren
Still just 24 but preparing for his fifth F1 season, Sainz is seen by McLaren to possess the perfect blend of youth, experience and speed.
The Spaniard, replacing his idol Fernando Alonso this year, also has a point to prove.
“I’m impatient to win but I don’t need to win now,” he said.
“I want to be part of this recovery plan, and I want to be part of this restructuring. What Fernando did last year was great but I don’t feel the pressure of stepping into his shoes.”
Sainz believes it is a matter of “when, not if” McLaren return to the front, adding: “I want to be part of this family for a long time.”
Sainz, initially on a two-year contract, has also moved to Surrey from Madrid in order to help McLaren as much as he can back at base.
“I’m really motivated in this challenge and I really want to lead this team,” he stated. “In order to do that I need to be around for whatever they need me for.
“From Monday to Friday I see it as a bit of a job, to be always around, to keep having new ideas, to be available for a quick run in the simulator.
“I’m just so motivated for this challenge that it just came very natural to move to the UK. I feel at home.”
How’s that for dedication.
A learning year for Norris
He arrives in the sport as Britain’s youngest ever driver with plenty of pressure on his shoulders, but Norris was typically cool and calm in his media session, cracking jokes about not wanting to “party” at the age of 19, while also backing his own racing instincts.
“I admire that I have that [youngest Brit] record and I’ve done well in every category to be in the position I’m in,” he said. “But I haven’t rang up Lewis (Hamilton), or gone out of my way to get advice from people I don’t necessarily know.
“I just try to be the best I can.”
What has been most impressive to McLaren is Norris’ maturity and willingness to learn and adapt.
“It was a different environment when Lewis came in [in 2007], we were winning races,” claimed Brown. “But I think Lando will hit the ground running and be on it right away. He’ll make mistakes along the way, but that’s alright. We’re confident in his abilities.”
“It’s going to be a learning year for me,” Lando told Sky Sports News.
“Sometimes, you just have to take your time and learn. Hopefully it can be a big building step up to next year.”
Facing the press pack, Norris continued: “There’s going to be things which I’m not going to be great at. There are going to be times when I make mistakes, 100 per cent.
“It’s very different when I get to F1, knowing that if I do make one small mistake, many more people are going to see it. There is more pressure and more scrutiny to not make silly mistakes. But it’s going to happen, no driver is perfect.
“There may be times when everyone thinks I’m terrible, or rubbish, or whatever. I’m going to go through those periods, I know. It’s just understanding that, and knowing what I should look at.”