Formula 1: Daniel Ricciardo fears 'empty' Monaco as McLaren release special livery

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris
McLaren have won 15 times at Monaco - more than any other team. Source: Forix

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo says he is "excited" about the return of Formula 1 to Monaco but worried the race will feel "empty" this year.

Monaco fell prey to the coronavirus pandemic last year, and it returns on 20-23 May with restrictions on access for spectators.

"The track itself is so intense, that will always be a 10 out of 10," said Ricciardo.

"I am so excited to go there, but I am a bit scared to not get too excited."

Monaco has limited attendance to 7,500 people per day for the race this coming weekend, with grandstands to be at no more than 40% capacity.

Ricciardo, speaking at the launch of a special one-off livery McLaren will run at the race, added: "We will have some fans, which is a start.

"The build-up, kind of walking through the crowd and fans to get into the pit lane, into your car - it's already kind of chaotic before you get into the car, so your heart rate is already up and the circuit's going to do the rest for you.

"So maybe there will be a little bit more calm before the storm."

The Australian lives in Monaco and won the race for Red Bull in 2018, but added that the "whole aura of the boats and everyone and people on the track at the end of the day drinking and partying - not having that to that level will probably feel a little empty but for the in-car stuff I think we'll probably be OK."

For Monaco, McLaren will paint their cars in a livery which is an updated version of an iconic and historic design made famous by their fuel and lubricants partner, Gulf Oil.

The blue and orange colour scheme is more closely associated with the Ford GT40 and Porsche 917 sports cars that won at Le Mans in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

McLaren also had a historic connection with the company before its current relationship, having run with it in F1 and sports cars in the 1970s, and with the classic blue-and-orange at Le Mans from 1995-97.

Ricciardo's team-mate Lando Norris described the livery as "beautiful", adding: "It will be the best-looking car on the grid by a very long way." Both drivers will also have one-off helmet designs and race suits for the race.

McLaren have had a strong start to the season and are third in the constructors' championship after four races, with Norris in the same position in the drivers' championship.

Ferrari and their Monaco-native driver Charles Leclerc are their closest rivals in each.

McLaren Racing chief executive officer Zak Brown said the close championship fight between Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen had been "great for F1" this year.

And Brown predicted that sooner or later the two title contenders were bound to crash together.

"It's a great rivalry," Brown said. "I think Max has gotten Lewis to step up, not that he needed much stepping up but he's definitely on his A-game.

"It's clear Lewis is a very smart driver. You can just seen him sitting there waiting to strike. He's not over-eager and that's his experience coming through.

"Rivalries are great in the sport and having those two guys going at it, hopefully at some point that will create some opportunity for us, because I think it is just a matter of time until they are both determined not to let up into Turn One and neither come out."

Ricciardo said the close battle was giving Hamilton a chance to demonstrate his qualities to those who believe his domination of the sport for the last seven years has been solely down to his car.

"A lot of people are probably tipping their hat to Lewis," Ricciardo said. "He is getting it dished back at him and holding his ground and showing people who maybe doubted him why he is as good as he is."

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