Interview by Anthony Sharwood. Video by Tom Compagnoni
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo missed the start of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix due to an issue with his gearbox.
He made it onto the track after two laps, but his race is effectively over, so we thought you might like to watch this ping pong battle instead (see video).
Every time you see a picture of Daniel Ricciardo, the 27-year-old Australian Red Bull Formula One ace is smiling. Seems like he's always in the best mood. But what's he really like in person?
Here at the Huffington Post Australia, we thought we'd take him out of his comfort zone to find out. Our weapon of choice? A ping pong table.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
We basically thought hey, let's have a few minutes of banter over a friendly game of table tennis. By doing this, we'd avoid the predictable questions about driver rivalry and the rest of it because, as Daniel told us: "I get asked the same sh-t all the time".
We didn't want to do that. That's why we asked him about a bunch of random stuff, including how he sleeps on planes, which we thought might interest you. We'll get to that in a sec. But first, let's start the game. And the banter.
Daniel: I've never owned a table, but I rate myself.
Ant: Good "Ricciardotude". Just be careful who you pick a fight with.
Daniel: Hey that backhand was all right by you.
Ant: I like to think of myself as a bit of a stylist.
Daniel: You got moves. I don't like losing.
Ant: I bet you don't. You're a professional sportsman and that's generally how it works with you guys. So what other sports are you good at apart from ping pong and Formula One driving?
Daniel: Formula one, average. Ping pong, very good.
Daniel: As a kid I played tennis so I guess my racquet skills are not too bad. Otherwise I like more of the extreme stuff if you want to call it that. I love riding mountain bikes, dirt bikes, all that sort of stuff. Just being outdoors really. I'm not really a video game kid. I don't like sitting inside. I'm not with how the new generation's going. If I was to pop out a kid tomorrow, I would not buy it an iPad that's for sure. I would buy it something to stay outside.
Ant: I took my iPad-addicted 10-year-old for a three-day hike over the summer.
Daniel: Oooh, good man. Expose him to a bit of nature.
Ant: Absolutely. Navigation, the whole bit. We didn't see a human for three days.
Daniel: Oh that's cool.
Ant: What are you like when you're back home over summer and hanging with your mates?
Daniel: All we do when we catch up over Christmas is ride bikes, drink a little bit and quote movie quotes. There's no real conversation.
Ant: Movie quotes, eh? I happen to know you're a bit of an Adam Sandler fan. What if I throw the old Shooter McGavin line at you from Happy Gilmore where he says "I eat pieces of sh-t like you for breakfast?
Daniel: "You eat pieces of sh-t for breakfast?"
Ant: Boom! You're all over it. Hey nice shot by the way.
Daniel: That proves us F1 drivers have quick reactions. I think I'm starting to warm up.
Ant: Yeah, I think you're one level above me here. So tell me. 1980 is the last time an Australian won our own F1 Grand Prix.
Daniel: I would love to end that drought, absolutely. I know personally I can win, but on a Sunday a lot has to go your way. I know if we play ping pong now I can win 'cos that's just physics, right?
Ant: We'll see.
Daniel: Let's just say that if I keep rocking up prepared and doing everything I can, it'll fall into place.
Ant: A bit like that shot there, Ricciardo!
Ant: The Australian GP is the first race of the season. Do you go through an intense pre-season like the footballers?
Daniel: Off season for us is the most intense training we do and it's mostly because it's the only bit of time we get without media, without distractions. Once the season starts, we're on a plane every two or three days and dealing with time zones.
Ant: Wow, that's a lot of flying. What's your sleep trick on planes? Every one of our readers is dying to know that.
Daniel: I'm not going to lie. Sometimes a glass of red does help. I'm not really into wine, but I feel like it does help. I just keep it to one because it does dehydrate you. As long as I limit it to that, it does put me in a bit of a doze.
Ant: Do you ever feel extreme fear? I get butterflies watching the races sometimes.
Daniel: My mum does. I wouldn't say I feel fear. It's excitement, it's adrenalin. Sure, there's times where it rains and visibility is terrible. The closest feeling we get to fear is not seeing what's in front of you.
Ant: I just hit a pretty lame forehand into the net because I didn't really commit to the shot. There's a moral there for all of us, isn't there.
Daniel: There is. Go all in.
Ant: OK, deciding point. This is for the match...
Ant: He sinks to his knees like Federer winning the Australian Open!
Daniel: I can't deal with that.
Ant: Well I think two wins in a week is too much. So take the win in the Grand Prix on Sunday and sacrifice this one.
Daniel: I'm happy to do that, cheers.
So that was that. We won the ping pong game but Ricciardo won the good guy game, as he always does. We can't help loving his attitude. A guy like him does a squillion interviews a year, and the fact that he was willing to take us up on our silly offer of a chat over a table tennis match said more to us than any of his answers. Thanks. Daniel!
For more banter and for some of the least brilliant ping pong you'll ever see, be sure to watch the full video above.
For more about Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull F1: