AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 19: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing prepares for a training session with the Del Valle Cardinals High School Football Team during previews ahead of the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 19, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Ricciardo: I'm recognized in US more than ever
03:08 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

US GP taking place in Austin October 20-22

Ricciardo says F1 increasing in popularity in US

Red Bull driver aiming to beat Hamilton Sunday

CNN  — 

It was only a few years ago that Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo could walk anywhere in the United States without being recognized.

But such is the increasing popularity of the sport in the US, the Australian is now a more familiar face to those living in a country where the sport is beginning to take hold.

Talking to CNN’s The Circuit ahead of this weekend’s US Grand Prix in Austin, the Red Bull driver said: “I’m still not saying I’m getting recognized everywhere, but I do get recognized now.

When we first started coming [to the US] not only were we not recognized but they weren’t aware of what F1 was. The idea of F1 was still very green.”

Following a five-year absence from the US, F1 held its first grand prix in Austin, Texas, in 2012 before a capacity crowd of 117,429.

For decades the sport had struggled to find a home in America, but the construction of Austin’s Circuit of the Americas – the first purpose-built F1 circuit in the US – has helped the Austin race become a success.

Raucous fans now attend in large numbers and drivers often cite the grand prix, which his held just outside a city whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” as one of their favorite race weekends.

Ricciardo said he was “absolutely” in favor of having another US date on the calendar, but not at Austin’s expense.

The 28-year-old added: “It [F1] has grown a lot over the years. I travel to Los Angeles and New York and even there [I get recognized].

“It’s got a long way to really grow to the levels we want to see, but it’s certainly grown in the last two years.”

Ricciardo and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen take part in a training session with the Del Valle Cardinals High School team

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Falling for the American way

The Australian has been making the most of his time in Texas, arriving a week before the race, which takes place Sunday, to attend the Austin City Limits music festival.

Offering a glimpse into how one of the most high-profile drivers in one of the world’s most glamorous sports relaxes, Ricciardo said listening to music “even in a tiny, old, not-so-pretty bar” helped him escape from the pressures of his sport.

Ricciardo finished third at the 2016 US grand prix

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Ricciardo, who has impressed this season after winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and picking up 192 points, is also gradually becoming an NFL fan.

“I really like the way Americans do sports,” he said.

“I’ve only started following American football in the last few years. I really like the set up of it, the chants, the camaraderie.

“It’s a show at the end of the day. Sure, you want to watch the game and the rivalries between teams, but part of the fun is the build-up and lead-up and Americans do the lead-up to an event so well.”

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An eye on victory

Hamilton could win the world title in Austin

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton could win his fourth world title this weekend, if results in Austin go his way.

The Briton needs to score 16 more points than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is currently second in the drivers’ championship.

A win for Hamilton on Sunday would crown him world champion if Vettel finishes sixth or lower. Should Hamilton finish second, he will need the German to finish ninth or lower to secure the title which would make him Britain’s most successful driver.

But while Ricciardo admitted he did not want to ruin a Hamilton coronation, the Australian said he was focused on securing a second win of the season.

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“I can win and not spoil Lewis’ party, maybe, so let’s see,” he said.

“I’ve got blinkers on to get another win before the season’s out.”