By Alan Baldwin
Smiling Australian Daniel Ricciardo joined new team mate Esteban Ocon, returning to the grid after a year out, and team management in emphasizing they were on the right track for recovery.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul said the car had yet to be finished, still in pieces a week before testing starts in Barcelona. In its absence, glimpses of details were shown on a big screen.
He denied, however, that the team was running late.
“If anything we are much more on schedule than we were last year,” he said. “If you optimize your schedule, you don’t have a car waiting here for a couple of hours or days. The car is (being) built and going straight to Barcelona.
“On that basis, our only option is to have fake cars, show cars, altered to look like this year’s car. For me that’s a waste of money and people will always interpret based on that.
“So rather than that, no car. For anyone interested in the car, look at the pictures next week.”
Ricciardo, who joined last year from Red Bull, said he had also yet to see the finished product.
“I haven’t yet had that moment,” he said. “Every year you have it, whether it’s your first year in Formula One or your 10th, when you see the car for the first time and you see your name on it.
“There’s certainly a nice little warm, fuzzy feeling but I haven’t got that yet.”
Ricciardo has not stood on the podium since leaving Red Bull, where he won seven races, but he hoped that would change.
“I am craving to take my shoe off, for sure. It’s been a while,” he grinned, referring to his trademark ‘Shoey’ celebration where he drinks champagne from his race boot on the podium.
“I am optimistic… I feel like this year there’s a bit more stability within the structure so that, on top of what we learned last year, in my mind I’m like ‘OK, it has to be better.’
“We have to move forward and we have the tools and the equipment. I do believe we will get the fourth place back. Will it come easy? No. But I think if we do everything we say we’re going to do, then it’s going to happen. We’ll get there.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)