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Melbourne awash with yellow and black as Ricciardo embarks on sea change

Canberra student Chris, 20, and his three mates travelled to Melbourne for the fourth consecutive year to watch what he describes as the “best event in Australia by a mile”.

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The $1000 round trip is “absolutely worth it” for Chris, who says he happily traded in his old Red Bull cap for a Renault one.

“It was never about the team. It’s about Dan … find me someone who doesn’t love him,” he says.

If yellow and black looks odd on Ricciardo, it’s because he’s worn the navy blue of Red Bull Racing for the last five years.

At a crucial juncture in his career, the 29-year-old decided to leave Red Bull for a $49 million per year contact with the less successful Renault team.

But Ricciardo’s move wasn’t about the money – it was about the ruthless hunt for sporting success.

Ricciardo says he is desperate to become a Formula One world champion.

Luke Lawry buys some merchandise from the Renault Formula 1 pop-up shop at Southern Cross Station. Renault products have been very popular ahead of Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo's first race for the F1 team.

Luke Lawry buys some merchandise from the Renault Formula 1 pop-up shop at Southern Cross Station. Renault products have been very popular ahead of Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo’s first race for the F1 team.Credit:Paul Rovere

At Red Bull, Ricciardo felt usurped by dynamo 21-year-old Max Verstappen. In a sport where teams build around the talent of their number one driver, Ricciardo felt he needed to make the move to a team that would be built firmly around him.

The switch is a long-term project, with Renault expected to have a mediocre 2019 before building into a team with the machinery to challenge for a title in years to come.

Nudging 30 years of age, it’s Ricciardo’s last throw of the dice to make the most of his enormous talent and become only the third Australian Formula One world champion.

This weekend – as on every weekend since then-Premier Jeff Kennett snatched the event from Adelaide in 1996 – crowds will flock to Albert Park.

Ticket sales for this year’s event are up around 8 per cent on last year, which was already a record year.

There will be a lot eyeballs fixated on Ricciardo’s fortunes, world champion or not.

Paul is a reporter for The Age.

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