Get on board: Ricciardo’s call to Aussie fans
It was standing room only in the Renault hospitality suite.
Daniel Ricciardo was facing the world's media for the first time after cutting his maiden laps as a Renault driver at Formula One testing in Barcelona.
If there wasn't already enough interest in his switch, the focus intensified after early drama for the team on track.
In just his second session in the car, Ricciardo suffered a rear-wing blowout and he spun off track, lucky to escape a collision with the wall.
He could have been forgiven for thinking the motorsport gods were conspiring against him again after a frustrating final year at Red Bull underlined by a string of retirements.
But if Ricciardo had any misgivings, he wasn't showing it.
Sitting at a table, covered with dictaphones and mobiles, a reporter's phone starts ringing at the end of the press conference. Ricciardo took it upon himself to answer it.
"Hola amigo,'' Ricciardo chuckled as he answered the phone before proceeding to drop it. The room erupted in laughter.
As he joked about and later worked the room in his new yellow and black get-up like he was at home, it was clear the pressures of last season had been lifted - even with the intense spotlight of joining a new team and a busted rear wing.
Despite two race victories in Monaco and China last year, Ricciardo's final season with Red Bull was a rollercoaster.
The weight of making the biggest decision of his Formula One career weighed heavily on the affable Australian, not to mention the agony of failing to finish in eight of the season's 21 races - that culminated in a fist through a wall at the United States Grand Prix.
So challenging was the year at times for the Perth racer, he felt he was at risk of falling out of love with the sport.
But Ricciardo admitted he had experienced a sense of relief putting the stress of last season behind him and was relishing the chance to start a new chapter.
"Last year was hectic for so many reasons, trying to figure out where I wanted to be this year,'' Ricciardo said.
"And then (there was) the highs and lows. After Monaco I thought I was probably in the championship fight … that was awesome and then it obviously fell away pretty quickly.
"It was just so intense, so it's just nice to have all that sorted and to come in (to this season) knowing that's behind me.
"I feel with all the ups and downs last year sometimes I felt at risk of losing a bit of love for the sport because it does get you down.
"I did feel like (I needed) something to give me a bit of a fresh start, fresh motivation which would be good for me.
"Deep down I do love the sport, I never thought about stopping, but there is days where you're just like 'ooohhh' and this is the opportunity I feel I need to keep all that up."
Ricciardo shocked the Formula One world last year when he announced he would be making the move to the French works team after five years with Red Bull. He had been widely expected to re-sign with the energy drink outfit after doors to the two major teams closed.
The decision surprised many given Renault were down the championship ladder behind Red Bull, not to mention the reliability issues Red Bull experienced with their Renault-supplied engine.
Certainly, it wasn't a move he made lightly. He had no shortage of input from advisers in and out of the Formula One paddock.
But when those closest to him sensed it was time for a fresh start, Ricciardo knew it was time to act.
"I choose to keep my parents out of it (F1 world) because I think it's healthy if I just try to focus on this and they kind of just enjoy it, but also they do know me well,'' Ricciardo said.
"I could sense from them that they thought a change would be good for me.''
In moving from the only team other than Mercedes and Ferrari to have won races in the past five years, Ricciardo concedes he is potentially taking a step back to go forwards as he strives to fulfil his dream of becoming a world champion.
From his two race wins in 2018 - and seven in his time at Red Bull - the driver regarded as one of the most brilliant overtakers in the business acknowledged podiums will be a stretch this year.
Beyond that, Ricciardo's and the team's plan is clear - to be hunting for a title by 2021.
"I would love to say we will step up on a podium this year, if I am being realistic that is probably a longshot at this stage,'' Ricciardo said.
"I guess the way I see it is the team were fourth (in the constructors championship) last year so there is still six cars in front of them and all being equal to be on the podium you need to be in the top two teams for that weekend. To jump two teams in one year is still a bit of a stretch because the gap to the top three was so big.
"But honestly all that I ask is that we do close the gap to third, even if we don't get third in constructors this year, if we can bridge that gap then I think that's already job done for 2019.
"I guess the medium-long term plan is to definitely be on the podium next year, if not this year then definitely next year. That's a realistic target and then by 2021 fight for the title.
"I know that sounds not very ambitious, but that's obviously a realistic plan and structure for what the team is doing at the moment.''
Certainly, as they plot their path forward, Renault is looking forward to engaging with Ricciardo's famous effervescent personality and having it rub off on everyone in the garage.
"When he is working in the factory, he has this positive energy that is following him so that is great to see,'' Renault team chief Cyril Abiteboul said.
"You can see that behind the smile there is a fantastic and professional personality. He is extremely generous and inquisitive, the way that he is interacting with people.
"He has got this natural capacity to get everyone to laugh immediately. He could be or should be extremely successful in his life after Formula One.
"But also on a technical level, he is extremely focused, he is really determined.''
Ricciardo has signed a two-year deal with the French manufacturer, but the 29-year-old said it was too early to say whether this would be his final stop in F1 - although he hoped it would be.
"I would love for it to be (the final stop) because that would mean that we're winning and everything's great and there is no reason why I would want to go anywhere else, but it's obviously too early to say,'' he said.
"I would definitely like to spend a few years here because I want to get that success with the team. I believe I will be here for a few years, absolutely.
"I'm making kind of a conscious effort to really put everything into it and make it work as best as possible … I want to put the work in to make sure I am not leaving anything unturned.
"Obviously I believe in my ability to drive this car fast, but I am not expecting it to all happen and to be smooth and peachy and everybody love me, I want to put the work in and make the best out of the situation.''
Ahead of his debut for his new team at Albert Park, Ricciardo's face can be seen plastered on Renault Australia billboards around town with the message "Make the Move".
And he's hoping Australians will join him on his new journey.
"Australians have been supporting a Red Bull driver from 2007 so it's been a lot of time they've been on the Red Bull wagon,'' Ricciardo said.
"For them to get behind another team that's probably exciting in itself to put new hope into something else.
"Of course I put pressure on myself, I want to go out there and perform, but I think equally the fans that know the sport know it's not very likely that I will be winning Melbourne or anything. It's probably just excitement to see how well I can do.
"I want people to get excited about it … I want them to be on board this whole journey because I can believe it can work. That will be cool if they believe it and know that I have done it for the right reasons."