Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo expects the first race of the season to be chaotic after the long break enforced by the coronavirus crisis.
The Australian, 30, believes the length of time since drivers were last in cars will lead to mistakes and incidents.
“(It will be) some form of chaos, hopefully in a controlled manner,” Ricciardo told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I am not really referencing cars everywhere. But there is going to be so much rust, a combination of emotion, excitement, eagerness.”
F1 bosses are planning to start the season in Austria on 3-5 July, by which time it will be four months since drivers stepped out of their cars at the end of pre-season testing.
“Everyone is going to be ready to go,” Ricciardo said.
“You are going to get some guys who perform on that level of adrenalin and others who might not. So you’re going to get some bold overtakes, some miscalculated ones. You’re going to see a bit of everything, I’m sure.”
The seven-time Grand Prix winner believes the more experienced drivers might be at an advantage at the start of the season.
Asked if it would take his body time to get used to driving again, Ricciardo said: “If this was my first year or two in F1, if I was still not completely adapted to it, my answer would be yes.
“But winter testing is normally a good reference point. My first few winter testings, day one always felt like a bit of a shock to the system again. And the further my career has gone on, the less of a shock that has been.
“The rookies, the first-year, second-year guys, will feel it a little bit more.”
Working out on the farm
Ricciardo has been spending his enforced break on his farm near Perth in Western Australia, with only his trainer and another close friend for company.
But he says it has been an effective environment in which to spend lockdown because he has plenty of space and has been able to work effectively on his physical conditioning.
“I’m quite fortunate in this whole situation,” Ricciardo said.
“In general, Australia has been pretty good throughout all this and being able to be home and out on the farm has been nice, having so much space and a little bit of freedom as opposed to kind of being locked in a small apartment or something.
“I’m certainly an active kid. I would have struggled in a few other places. This has been really quite nice to get some time here. I haven’t had this since I left Australia in 2007, so it’s really rare for me.
“We have the space out here on the farm and (can) set up a real training programme, which you never really get.
“Well, you get it at the start of the year but once you get back to Europe and the travelling starts it is so hard to get any routine and consistency.
“Now, we have been able to build an eight-week block and we are starting to see some real good improvements.
“The icing on the cake on that is we haven’t been jumping time zones, or locked in pressurised cabins three days a week up in the air, and the benefit is going to be really nice.
“Because it is so unique it was important to maximise this. And who knows? It might give me a bit more longevity in my career.”
‘I still believe I can win world title’
Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of this season and has a decision to make as to whether to stay with Renault – whose performance in his first season with them last year after leaving Red Bull was a disappointment – or look elsewhere, with potential openings at Mercedes and Ferrari, among other teams.
Ricciardo said: “My basic target with this whole journey was not just get into F1. It was to leave a world champion.
“Was I excited to get to F1? Absolutely. Do I love it? Yes. I haven’t got there yet. But am I still enjoying it? Absolutely.
“But if it ended today would I be disappointed? A big part of me would be because it’s something I really believe I am good enough to achieve, so I would feel it has left smelting on the table.
“That is the ultimate goal. The day I stop believing I’m able to get that any more it is the day you’ll probably see me walk away from the sport, but I certainly still believe this can happen.”
The decision is made more complicated by the fact that a major regulation change is due to come in for 2022, which is aimed at closing up the grid and could shake up the competitive order.
“It’s frustrating that the sport is driven quite a lot by being in the right equipment in the right season,” Ricciardo said. “But it’s what I signed up for. And that in itself is an exciting part of the sport.
“The challenge is to position yourself with the best team at that moment and when rule changes come in, it’s, like, is that still the right team to be with, or are we missing something? Do we need to try to build on what we’ve got here?
“It’s kind of like chess a lot of the time. I wish it was black and white and everyone had the same and we could go and see who was the best, but that is not how it works. But I do feel that the best will always find a way to make it to the top.”
Listen to the full interview on BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday 9 May at 13:20 BST.