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Adversity and Triumph: Daniel Ricciardo's Career-Defining Moments

Written by Kate Krause, Edited by Sean McKean

Daniel Ricciardo celebrating his win of the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo's journey in Formula 1 began in 2009, when he tested for Red Bull Racing at the Circuit de Jerez. This marked the start of a remarkable career that not only left an indelible impact on the sport but also introduced fans to a uniquely funny and entertaining personality that brought joy to every race. In this article, we will explore three critical moments in Daniel's career that played a pivotal role in shaping him into the incredibly successful F1 driver he is today. Whether you're new to the name Daniel Ricciardo or a dedicated fan looking to delve into his career history, this article is sure to captivate your interest.

A Rocky Start

After two challenging years at Toro Rosso and one year prior at HRT, Ricciardo faced high expectations upon joining Red Bull Racing. Red Bull was coming off of four years of dominance with Sebastian Vettel sweeping the competition with his extremely fast car. This meant expectations were high for Ricciardo, as Red Bull wanted to continue their winning streak and needed a good driver to partner their four-time World Champion. However, his first race with the team proved to be a challenging beginning for both him and Red Bull.

Notably, this race took place at the Australian Grand Prix, his home race, which added to the electrifying atmosphere with a passionate crowd supporting him. Ricciardo showcased his potential by qualifying an impressive second, just behind Lewis Hamilton, signaling a strong start to his Red Bull career. Despite intense pressure from other drivers, he finished the race in second place. However, his joy was short-lived as he was disqualified for exceeding the mandated fuel flow rate limit. This setback was particularly disheartening as it occurred during his debut race for Red Bull and on his home turf.

Daniel Ricciardo on the podium in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, Photo by PlanetF1

Red Bull attempted to appeal the disqualification in a bid to regain Ricciardo's first podium finish, but the stewards maintained their ruling, forcing Ricciardo out of the race. Responding to the uncertainty before the ruling was finalized, Ricciardo expressed: "I'd be gutted if I am thrown out. We were on a high when we heard the news about the stewards. We will have to look at what happened and move on."

Remarkably, Ricciardo demonstrated resilience by swiftly moving past this setback. He expressed that he was still proud of the way he drove and the position he was in before the disqualification, helping him maintain a positive mindset and redirecting his focus towards future races, where he continued to work hard and drive exceptionally well. This loss gave a valuable lesson to everyone, such as fans, on how to push forward through adversity and the importance of perseverance even when things are out of your control.

2014 Canadian Grand Prix

The 2014 Canadian Grand Prix remains an unforgettable moment in Daniel Ricciardo's career. Despite a challenging qualifying session where he secured sixth place while his teammate took fourth, the race initially appeared less than promising for Ricciardo. Nico Rosberg, starting from pole position, showcased an impressive defensive display against his teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout the majority of the race.

This dynamic continued even after a safety car was deployed following a collision involving Marussia teammates Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. However, the race took a dramatic turn when Hamilton had to retire due to a brake issue, opening the door for Ricciardo to embark on an astonishing climb up the standings. Overtaking Sergio Perez and eventually Nico Rosberg, Ricciardo sealed his remarkable victory, marking not only his first triumph in Formula 1 but also ending Mercedes' dominant winning streak that had persisted since the beginning of the season.

Ricciardo with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Additionally, this extraordinary achievement propelled Ricciardo to a significant rise in the World Championship standings, securing him third place. Reflecting on his victory, Ricciardo expressed his disbelief, stating: "I'm still a bit in shock. This is ridiculous." His recollection of the race further highlights the sheer elation that comes with winning.

Undoubtedly, this race stands out as one of the most sensational moments in Ricciardo's racing history, vividly demonstrating his exceptional driving skills and the rewarding nature of achieving victory. Winning a Formula 1 race is an unparalleled experience for any driver, particularly their first win, as it undeniably serves as a defining moment in their career, showcasing their unwavering passion and remarkable skill in the world of racing.

Monaco Highs and Lows

Monaco is an incredibly iconic circuit on the F1 calendar, filled with tight turns, rainy days and water views. But for Ricciardo, Monaco has a special place in his heart, for better or for worse.

In 2016, a catastrophe occurred for him. At the Saturday qualifying session, Ricciardo managed to snatch pole away from the three-time defending race winner, Nico Rosberg. This also happened to be his first pole position, another important stepping stone in his career. Ricciardo had a great start in the race, managing to stay in first despite the rainy morning. He also created a large gap between him and the second-place Rosberg, making many believe he was on the road to his next victory. After pit stops made by Rosberg and Ricciardo, the new order in the race was Hamilton first, then Ricciardo, and finally Rosberg. However, on lap 31, the track was dry enough to switch tyres to slicks. Hamilton was the first from the trio to switch tyres, followed by Ricciardo. But when Ricciardo went into the pits, it was mayhem.

Ricciardo in the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, Photo by Sky Sports

The mechanics were ready to give his car slicks, however, a last-minute strategy change meant that the mechanics were scrambling to get the proper tyres for the Red Bull. This confusion caused Ricciardo’s pit stop to be exceedingly long, allowing Hamilton to take advantage of it and go on to win the race with Ricciardo in second. Looking at any post-race interview, the podium ceremony, and even some footage from the pits, the anger and betrayal on Ricciardo’s face is evident. Losing a race when leading most of it is an awful feeling, but losing a race because of a pitstop error is even worse.

When interviewed after the race, Ricciardo explains how: “it sucks. It hurts''. Daniel was quick to blame the team, describing how the pit stop was not his idea and expressing his complaints about the team and their lack of readiness. This was a very hard moment for Ricciardo, and even many years later, still expresses sadness when contemplating the race, such as when he and Lando Norris, a fellow F1 driver, were participating in the start-stop challenge.

However, Ricciardo’s bad feelings towards Monaco were short-lived. The 2018 Monaco Grand Prix was an incredible weekend for Ricciardo, one of the best of his career. Ricciardo managed to be the fastest man on track in all three practice sessions, beating his teammate Max Verstappen. During qualifying, Ricciardo dominated the track, setting a new qualifying lap record and, subsequently, starting the race in pole position.

However, Ricciardo’s road to victory started to have a few bumps while he was racing for the win on the tight streets of Monaco. On lap 28, Ricciardo can be heard over the team radio complaining of a loss of power in the car. It was later discovered to be an engine failure, forcing Ricciardo to drive a car with six out of eight functioning gears, significantly less horsepower than the competitors, and pressure from drivers behind.

Daniel Ricciardo jumping into the Monte Carlo Grand Prix pool, Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Thankfully, due to several external circumstances such as the Monaco streets being extremely difficult to pass on, when the checkered flag started to wave, it was Ricciardo’s car the audience was watching cross the finish line. Ricciardo then went on to celebrate in his car, on the podium, and even by jumping in the pool face first. He can be seen celebrating in every way possible, almost as if to make up for all the celebrations he should’ve been partaking in 2 years prior. Overall, this win was an astonishing achievement for Ricciardo, the product of years of work, races, defeats, and victories. Ricciardo’s win in Monaco was the result of all the love and dedication he’s put into Formula 1. It is wonderful to know he got his retribution for 2016, and being able to share that win with his amazing team at Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo's journey in Formula 1 has been filled with adversity and triumph, marked by career-defining moments that have shaped him into the exceptional driver he is today. From the hot gravel under the Australian sun, to the grassy circuit in Montreal, and the rollercoaster of emotions in Monaco, Ricciardo's path has been paved with challenges and celebrations. These pivotal moments highlight Ricciardo's resilience in the face of setbacks and his unwavering determination to succeed. His ability to bounce back from disappointment, learn from each experience, and continue pushing forward is a testament to his character and passion for the sport. Ricciardo first joined Red Bull he’s back in the Red Bull garage, surrounded by a team he has known since his rookie years, and hopefully a team he will have the pleasure of racing for again.

1 comment

1 Comment

Jul 18, 2023

Great article. A clear account of a man’s dedication and tenacity to overcome obstacles and not give up. We can all learn from this clear,well written article even though we know nothing about car racing.. A very interesting article for all readers.

We hope to read more articles by this writer.

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