MELBOURNE: Daniel Ricciardo called his strong support at the Australian Grand Prix "kind of overwhelming" Thursday, but said it gave him extra motivation to become the race's first Aussie winner in 37 years.
The 27-year-old from Perth, Western Australia, is lining up for his sixth crack at the race in Melbourne on Sunday, after placing fourth last year, his best performance yet.
Ricciardo is seeking to become the first domestic driver to win the Australian race since it became part of the world championship calendar in 1985.
Alan Jones was the last Australian to win his home grand prix in 1980 when he was also the last Australian to win the world title.
But Ricciardo, the Red Bull driver with the neon smile who finished third in last year's world championship, said he isn't burdened by national expectations.
"It's not a weight on my shoulders," Ricciardo said at the official media conference on Thursday.
"It means more work, for sure. This week is easily the busiest F1 week of the year for me.
"But it's all positive support, it's kind of overwhelming actually. I'm surprised so many people are getting behind me and the event... it won't last forever."
In 2014, Ricciardo crossed the line second behind Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, but cruelly he was disqualified for breaching fuel rules.
"It's demanding, it is a tiring week, but it's pretty cool to see so many people supportive of me and the event... it's pretty much just a bit of extra motivation for me," Ricciardo said.
"I don't see it as the pressure in terms of, if I don't win on Sunday, I know they're not all going to leave the track and say I'm hopeless and never come back.
"They want to see me do well and that's how I see it, pretty much. I think at the (pre-race) drivers' parade on Sunday, I'll see that and feel it and get me jacked up for the race."
Ricciardo has won four races from 109 GPs, but he said a win in Australia would top them all.
"If anyone could win just one race, they would always say their home (race)," he said.
"I would love to. I'm prepared, we have all done our work in the pre-season and we feel like we're coming in as well prepared as possible."