The Rise And Fall Of Daniel Ricciardo

The Rise And Fall Of Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo is one of the most loved drivers in Formula 1. His rise in the sport was magnificent, but his fall was sudden and unexpected, too. Here is his story, from his best moments, to his most frustrating ones.

Early life

Daniel Ricciardo was born in Perth, Australia, on July 1st, 1989. His origins are mixed: his father was born in Italy, while his mother is Australian. The love for racing was already flowing in the family’s blood: Daniel’s dad was racing at the Barbagallo Raceway circuit in Wanneroo, not too far away from where they lived. Then, Daniel started racing, too. When he was nine years old, he began his karting career.

As the Australian was growing, he went from karting to Formula Ford and Formula BMW. In 2008, he joined the Formula 3 category, and a year later, he participated in the British Formula 3 Championship. During the 2010 season, Ricciardo raced in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, where he collected many pole positions and wins, finishing second in the overall standings.

Formula 1 debut

His Formula 1 debut arrived in December 2009, where he drove around the Circuito de Jerez for some testing with Red Bull Racing. After his positive performance, one year later, Red Bull announced him as the single driver for the team at the post-season young driver’s test in Abu Dhabi. For the 2011 season, Daniel became the test and reserve driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso.

His Grand Prix debut arrived at the 2011 British Grand Prix, where the Aussie replaced Narain Karthikeyan due to his lack of pace in the previous races, driving for HRT in all the remaining races of the season. At the end of the year, it was confirmed that Daniel would drive for Toro Rosso during the 2012 season. He extended his contract for the following year, and thanks to his good performances, he finally joined Red Bull Racing in 2014 alongside Sebastian Vettel.

In 2014, Ricciardo managed to claim his first victory, at the Canadian Grand Prix, which was followed by other two race wins, one at the Hungaroring and the other at Spa-Francorchamps. At the end of the season, he finished third in the championship. That year was incredible for Daniel, as he beat a four-time world champion in his first season with Red Bull. The Aussie had shown his talent in the past, but no one would have expected him to outscore Vettel, who was considered the best driver after his four consecutive world titles. The 2014 season was so good for Ricciardo that he was the only non-Mercedes driver to score victories.

For the 2015 season, things did not go as expected for Red Bull. Ferrari, Mercedes, and even Williams built better and faster cars, which meant that fighting for the championship was impossible for both Daniel and Daniil Kvyat, his new teammate. The Aussie driver proved to be faster than the Russian, beating him by three points at the end of the season.

The 2016 season saw Red Bull building a more competitive car and being closer to the top. After the first few races of the season, the team decided to promote Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso, meaning that the Dutch would partner Ricciardo from the Spanish GP onwards. That year, Daniel only grabbed one victory, but it is safe to say that luck was not on his side many times. For example, in Monaco, he had the win in his hands, but due to a mistake by his pit crew, he lost it to Lewis Hamilton. However, he managed to finish the season in the third position, showing great consistency and speed.

In the 2017 season, Daniel won his fifth GP of his career in Azerbaijan. He suffered many retirements, also due to mechanical issues, and only ended up in P5 in the standings.

Career-changing season

The 2018 year changed everything in Ricciardo’s career. Despite winning two races, in China and Monaco, the Aussie totalized eight retirements, finishing only sixth in the standings. Not only that, his relationship with his teammate, Verstappen, worsened, and the team seemed not to have Daniel’s back on many occasions. The lowest point in his relationship was probably reached when the two drivers collided at the Azerbaijan GP. Not only that, his frustration was visible in Japan, where during qualifying he suffered yet another mechanical failure and, as he got out of the car, he screamed, showing all his anger and frustration.

His situation at Red Bull was not as brilliant as it was in the previous seasons, also because the team was probably focusing more on the other side of the garage, the one of Verstappen. The Dutchman totalized 11 podiums and two wins, collecting 79 points more than Daniel. The latter, who considers being happy one of the most important things, decided to part ways with the team to seek better luck elsewhere. However, a seat in a top team was not available to him, and this brought one of the most competitive drivers in the last few years to make a hard choice: join a midfield team but remain in Formula 1.

New journey

In 2019, his new journey began. It was a season full of ups and downs, though. Daniel managed to get some good results right behind the top three teams. However, he still had many retirements, meaning he could only finish P9 in the standings.

In the 2020 season, Ricciardo could smile a bit more once again as he reached the podium twice that year: the first time being at the Eifel Grand Prix, and the second one at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. It was a positive year overall, considering that Renault was not fighting at the front. Daniel finished fifth in the standings.

Despite some good results with the team, Daniel was still not entirely happy. That is why he chose to leave the French outfit and join McLaren, which had been incredibly competitive in the past season. Many people expected him to do well with the British team, considering that Ricciardo could finally go back to a more competitive team. Therefore, the expectations were set high. However, Daniel did not deliver the results expected. It is true that, on many occasions, he was faster than his teammate Lando Norris during qualifying. On the other hand, though, it is on Sunday that points are scored, and Ricciardo lacked pace compared to his teammate. He reached the peak of his performance at the Italian Grand Prix, where following the retirements of Hamilton and Verstappen, Ricciardo could bring the car home in P1, scoring his only podium and win of the season.

Throughout the 2021 season, the Australian claimed many times that it was hard for him to fully understand the car and that he was working on it since it was his first year with McLaren. Thus, with new regulations and a completely different car coming into the 2022 season, many hoped to see Daniel go back to the form he had in his first years at Red Bull.

Goodbye Formula 1, for now…

The truth is that, even in the 2022 season, things did not go as planned – they got worse. The new MCL36 was not very competitive, especially at the beginning of the season. Daniel was constantly beaten by his teammate, who also managed to secure a podium at Imola. Following his poor results, Zak Brown admitted that Ricciardo’s performances were not meeting the driver’s and the team’s expectations.

Daniel’s impact on the sport was incredibly hard, and positive. His fall from being one of the best to be out of the sport was very hard too, tough. In fact, after the poor results, McLaren decided to part ways with the Australian, who also confirmed that he will not be driving in Formula 1 for the 2023 season. Rumors suggest he might become a reserve driver for Mercedes, but there is nothing confirmed yet.

What is clear is that Ricciardo does not stop smiling so easily, and he does not give up either. He said he is already working on a plan to come back to winning ways in Formula 1 for the 2024 season, something that many Formula 1 fans hope to see. He enchanted the world with his late-braking moves and overtakes, he made everybody laugh with his celebration, the “shoey”, and seeing him struggle so much in the sport made many people unhappy. Only the future can tell what will happen, and Daniel will surely try to make things work with his big smile.