I think that my very first memory about motorsport is down at the track while my father was racing. My mom was holding me and I clearly remember the noise and the smell of the cars. I was only 2 years old. Maybe 3.
I still don’t know why I was so in love with motorsport.
On television I used to watch everything: Nascar, Formula 1, MotoGp.
Actually, I was in love with sport in general. I was playing soccer, cricket, Australian football, oh that was really good, and tennis.
At the end I can consider myself as a true sport lover.
My childhood was quite normal: I liked to be active as much as I could, as any kids.
But then when I drove a go kart for the first time I had so much more fun than doing anything else and the realization popped into my mind immediately:
Ok this is what I want to do.
The thing I liked the most was the competition: the emotion of racing and dueling against each other. That’s what motorsport really means to me: going up against the other and seeing if you are better. It’s a great feeling, even better than speed itself.
I’m as competitive as possible: when I playi tennis with friends or even video games, I go crazy if I lose.
So I started spending all the weekends at the tracks. Every single one.
My friends usually had different plans: like going partying somewhere while I was racing or travelling. When I got older, it got a little different because my social life was not like my friends’, but otherwise it was not too different.
I was actually very fortunate because growing up I was always outside and I built a very big group of friends that I still have. Back in Australia there are like 12 of us that are still really close. I made some new friends as well, on the way, and maybe a few I’ve lost, but, in the end, I kept the most and I made some more: I’m very lucky for that.
Now, at this level, I learned to understand if the new ones are my friends because I’m Daniel or because I’m Formula Uno Daniel. I can tell if they want to be close to me for real or if they are just someone I can talk to.
But for 95% of my day I’m happy, relaxed and friendly with everybody.
I like to be nice to people because I like when people are nice to me.
I think that being nice really is in my nature.
Maybe that’s because I grew up in Perth, and that means having the sun, the beach and a great lifestyle.
In the years between my childhood and my professional career I had doubts just a few times. I mean: even when I was 17 and I was planning to move to Europe, I didn’t really know if this was what I wanted to do in my life.
School had just finished and I was asking myself:
what will I do with my life?
I’m not really enjoying studying.
I don’t have a passion other than racing.
But I wasn’t convinced that I was good enough or determined enough to make it work.
Moving to Europe was my answer.
I moved to Europe and it just felt right.
I didn’t get too homesick, I didn’t get very distracted.
I was very focused, feeling better day after day.
The quality of my driving and my determination were signs that I really wanted to make it.
17, of course, is a young age to change, and before then I had lived my whole life at home, with my parents. My mom is Italian, and everybody knows the Italian style: very loving, caring, she did everything for me. I never had to cook food or doing my laundry so when I moved out at the beginning it was kind of a shock.
Oh wow now I need to do stuff!
I need to learn how a kitchen works!
When I left Australia I was very fussy, I didn’t eat many foods: pasta, pizza and that’s it.
Not exactly the perfect diet for an athlete. But, in Europe, I was forced to eat other food too, because sometimes there was no other choice. I grew up real fast.
I also learned to be lonely, with no other family around. That’s not an easy thing to do but I focused on the challenge. I liked the adventure feeling of being overseas.
Sure: I didn’t like to miss my friends. The year I left all of them were turning 18 so I missed their parties, and all those great moments to share. I was quite lonely at the weekends when there were no races, and they were always sending me messages while they were hanging out together, having fun, and:
thinking about me!
Ok, thank you so much guys!
But actually, jokes aside, we got even closer thanks to the distance because I learned how to take care of the real important things.
I feel like I always handled solitude quite well.
During that first year, when I was lonely, I would have preferred to have my friends or my family with me, but the sadness wasn’t enough to overcome the happiness I got from racing.
So I just learned to deal with it.
Ok, when I race it’s amazing,
then some weekends I’ll be be lonely
but this is the sacrifice I need to make.
So when I feel lonely I put on a movie or something, I create some noise inside my apartment and I feel like there’s people with me. Or I do some physical activity, just to clear my mind.
Go for some rounds and get out of the house.
It’s important to take care of your soul this way, otherwise you can go a little bit crazy, if you are on your own the all time. But having a good family and friends, knowing that even if they are not with you, they are always thinking of you, and caring about you… well: that is also quite good.
Our job is a very unique one: it has its own rules and difficulties.
For example: fear doesn’t really get talked about in the paddock. I think, to be honest, that is because we’ve been doing it for so long. The fear that maybe we used to have, we put it behind our back. Maybe there’s still some left, but not much.
Also, you start to get confident, sometimes start thinking sometimes that you are invincible, which also isn’t good, but at least it helps you with your mind set.
The biggest fear that you have is: not being good enough. So when your contract is coming to an end, you hope that it’s not going to be your last one:
What do I do now?
I’ve been racing all my life.
That’s probably more of a fear than having an accident.
The one time in the car when you actually feel fear is when it’s raining at the start of the race, and with all the sprays from the cars, you can’t see anything. You really don’t see anything, and in that moment you hope that nobody ahead of you gets into a crash.
Hoping is the only thing you can do: with the rain it’s an almost completely different driving style and the risk changes too.
The night before a race, on Saturday night, I normally try not to think about it. I go to dinner with some friends and then I watch a movie. I want to clear my mind as much as I can, to handle the stress.
In the morning, the main thing I focus on is hydration but I still try not to think about the race too much, trying to preserve most of my energy. I’d like my attention to start to peak just before the race. But there is so much media to do on Sunday that it’s not so easy to approach the race the way you wanted to.
Before the start, we maybe get one hour to ourselves, and that’s the only time we get to really go through a routine. That’s why conserving energy on Sundays is very important. We don’t have so much time for ourselves and it’s hard to have a perfect preparation, because talking to the media brings you literally so close to the race, even you still don’t want to think about it. I would prefer to have my time for stretching, or relaxing, but on race day we are surrounded by quite a lot.
In my job you have to learn how to handle all of this: the pressure, the media, the distance from family and friends. And even more.
Because, when you’re travelling a lot, you start to feel at home everywhere, even if you’re sure you’re never really feeling at home.
You get used to hotels: we are living out of a suitcase so much.
It’s difficult, it takes time to adapt.
I used to live every year in an apartment but I bought a house last year.
I was feeling the need to have a connection with a place.
I needed a place where I could put some art.
A place I felt like home, waiting for my family and friends to come join me for a Christmas dinner or something like that.