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Daniel Ricciardo: A Final Career Move to Get Back on the Grid?

Written by Michaela Fava, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Photo Credit: Baron/ Getty Images

Daniel Joseph Ricciardo was born on 1 July 1989 in Australia. His father is Sicilian and relocated to Australia with his family when he was only seven years old. Referring back to his childhood in 2017, Ricciardo stated, “I think Europe at the time was a bit difficult and a bit dark. It was difficult to get ahead and I think they just thought Australia was a place of opportunity.” He wanted to pursue his dreams in Formula One so he returned to Europe to make his way up in the motorsport industry.

To get into Formula One, one has to start by joining an academy and working their way up from F3 to F2 and finally having a seat with a team in F1. In 2009 Ricciardo won the British F3 championship which gave him the opportunity to progress to Formula Renault.

HRT 2011

Daniel Ricciardo was offered the opportunity to start his Formula One career with the struggling back of the grid team HRT at the British Grand Prix, where he took the place of Narain Karthikeyan in their race lineup. He never gave up and kept pushing for the rest of the season, showing signs of progress compared to his more experienced teammates. His hard work and improvement in the team earned him a promotion to Toro Rosso in 2012.

Toro Rosso 2012

At his home race, Ricciardo was quick to show the team what he was worth when he finished P9 in Melbourne. 2014 was a year of change for Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber announced his retirement from F1 and he got promoted to Red Bull and paired with Sebastian Vettel in the 2014 season.

Red Bull 2014

His transfer to a new team didn't start well as his second-place finish in Australia ended with a disqualification for a technical infringement. But things started to turn out very well for the Australian as the season progressed. He won his first race at the Canadian Grand Prix and won two more races after in Hungary and Belgium, making him the only non-Mercedes driver to win in 2014. He also finished third in the Drivers' Standings ahead of his four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel. On 3 August fans got the news that Ricciardo was leaving Red Bull Racing on agreed terms and will join Renault in 2019.

Renault 2019

Upon joining Renault, Ricciardo had a best finish of P4 in Italy and only managed to score just enough points to be ninth in the Drivers' Championship. Renault had an aim that season to move clear of the midfield and be fighting for the title by the 2021 season. The team upgraded the car with a new engine and a raft of new aerodynamics which excited Daniel Ricciardo. This made him have no regrets about joining the French team and referred to Lewis Hamilton's switch to Mercedes which granted him a lot of success. “It was the biggest thing I have done, even bigger than the move to Europe”, he said. “I didn't feel there was much room to build with Red Bull anymore. I thought there was more risk in staying. Renault excited me. What Lewis did with Mercedes, if I was able to do that – that was the instant motivation for me.” In 2020, Ricciardo had a successful season with two podiums and finishing fifth in the Drivers' Standings.

Photo Credit: Miguel Medina/ Getty Images

McLaren 2021

When the news broke that Daniel Ricciardo was going to join McLaren for the 2021 season, it was known as one of the biggest stories of the year according to the article written by Formula 1. It all spiralled from Sebastian Vettel's departure from Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season to be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr which in turn led to Ricciardo being signed in as his replacement, “I think obviously Vettel's announcement or news with Ferrari kind of sparked everything, and then things were moving pretty quickly around Carlos and all the other stuff.

This is the fifth team Ricciardo has raced for in his career, teaming up with Lando Norris. In his two-year stint with the papaya orange team, barring an amazing race win at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo had struggled with the car and was constantly out-performed by Norris.

Will we see Daniel Ricciardo on the grid again?

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

Well, this is a rhetorical question but the fans want to hear yes as an answer. Although, most of them believe it is a bit of a challenge for him and for any team that is thinking of signing him. Some say that he is requesting a high salary to be in a team and some teams might doubt his racing ability compared to other drivers. His level might be doubted because of his McLaren stint but we've seen him excel while driving for other teams. In an interview during the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix, Ricciardo said, “The car I have now is completely not what I want for my driving style, and very unsuited for me, it is not a bad thing, it's just that's what it is, and you have to adapt to it.”

His re-signing as third driver in Red Bull Racing was something awaited by Ricciardo as he said, “I'm truly excited to be coming back home to Oracle Red Bull Racing as their Third Driver in 2023. I already have so many fond memories of my time here, but the welcome from Christian, Dr. Marko, and the entire team is something I am sincerely appreciative of.

The decision to have a seat or not in the coming years, all depends on the team principal. Speculations about Ricciardo finding a seat with Red Bull were downplayed when Horner replied, “No, Daniel's contract is very specific. We have a contract with [Sergio] Perez for the next two years. The partnership of Max [Verstappen] and Checo has been phenomenal for us.” But there might be potential opportunities coming his way with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso being older and may not have long in the sport. Might this be an opportunity for a driver's change? There were also speculations of Mercedes offering an opportunity to Charles Leclerc a spot, which leaves out an empty seat in Scuderia Ferrari.

Although fans make it look like a competition and rivalry between Perez and Ricciardo, Perez is unfazed about the idea that he is back on the team. During an interview with Sky Sports, Perez said, “I mean, we live under a lot of pressure all the time. It doesn't change anything from my side, I think it's a great achievement for the team to have a driver like Daniel and he's going to contribute a lot to our team. He is a great guy, he's one of the guys I get on [with] the most in the paddock, so I think it's just great to have Daniel in the team, and from my side, it doesn't change anything.”

Perez signed a two-year contract in May 2022 which will end in 2024. Whilst there is a big chance that Sergio Perez will get his contract renewed, having Daniel Ricciardo as a reserve driver will challenge him to keep his performance top-notch alongside Max Verstappen.


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