Daniel Ricciardo’s decline in Formula 1 has not been spectacular, but rather strained and harrowing. In his junior career, the Australian won two titles in a row and finished second in F1’s then premier single-seater feeder series, the Renault 3.5 series, the year before he joined F1.
The lucky Australian joined F1 in 2011 when he replaced Narain Karthikeyan at the back of the Hispania Racing grid for the remaining 11 races of the season.
Daniel joined Red Bull’s young driver program the previous year and at the end of the season the young driver test at the Gas Marina circuit. He dominated the event, setting a lap 1.3 seconds faster than world champion Sebastian Vettel at the end of the F1 season last week.
The rise of Ricciardo
In 2012, Ricciardo was appointed alongside Jean-Eric Vergne to race for the Red Bull F1 junior team Torro Rosso. Well acquitted him despite his teammate finishing 1 place ahead of him in the Drivers’ Championship
The following season, Riccardo scored 20 points to Vergne’s 13 and was promoted to the Bull’s big team for 2014.
This was the start of a new era for the F1 V6 hybrid powertrain, and Red Bull was not competitive with the dominant Mercedes, partly due to inferior engines.
Nevertheless, in 5 years with the team, Ricciardo won 3rd, P8, P3, P5 and P6 in the Drivers’ Championship.
Such was the prowess of the Australian in his first season alongside four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, whom he outscored 238:167. Vettel left Red Bull the following year after being called up by Ferrari. Some commentators at the time attributed his irritation with the new kid on the block Ricciardo for Sebastian’s decision to leave his title-winning home team.
Nevertheless, Ricciardo was to meet a similar fate.
Verstappen eliminated the Aussie
In his third year at the Milton Keynes team, mid-season Max Verstappen promoted alongside him from Torro Rosso.
Ricciardo outscored his exciting young team-mate by 200-168 points in their first full year together, but Verstappen has had the upper hand in 2018.
Significantly, there was an incident between the two teammates in Baku which many believe was the reason Ricciardo decided to leave the team the following year.
The two riders met on the front straight in a huge crash that took them both out. During the post-race interviews, Christian Horner appeared to criticize Ricciardo and take Max’s side.
Daniel left for Renault in 2019 and spent two competitive years with team-mate Carlos Sainz before deciding to leave for McLaren F1.
A McLaren car designed for Norris
Except for the surprise win at Monza, Ricciardo’s time with the team was torturous. Established teammate Lando Norris has been consistently qualifying and racing in the Aussie. Result? Ricciardo was released a year earlier by the Woking team.
Much has been made of the McLaren car being designed and developed to suit Lando Norris’ racing style – as the reason for Ricciardo’s mighty fall from grace.
However, the young British driver has now come forward in an interview with the Beyond the Grid podcast to refute this idea entirely.
“[It’s] Not that I hate driving the car I’m driving now, but it doesn’t suit my driving style very well.” says Lando
“I would say at the start of the year Daniel was a lot more comfortable with it than I was in terms of how you had to drive it.
“That’s something I really struggled with at the beginning of the season and now I’m dealing with it or adapting to it.
“But it’s nowhere near the car I’d want in an ideal world. If I wanted to go and do the best lap possible and you give me the car to go and do that, it’s definitely not the car I have now.
“We drive in different ways, so what we demand from a car is completely different. But it is by no means adapted to me more than to him.
“It’s not like, ‘Lando said this and we’re just going to do this, and Daniel, we’re not going to do that.’ That’s just stupid to even think.
Lando backs Ricciardo as an F1 driver and believes he deserves to be on the grid in 2023.
“I think he’s shown in his career how fast he is, what he’s achieved when he joined Red Bull, what wins he’s achieved – he’s never won a boring race, he’s always won exciting races, he’s done it in style.
“He’s done it many times – in Monaco, when he had to perform in qualifying and things like that, he did exactly that.
“I don’t have to say it. I think everyone knows how good he is and what he can achieve.”
Why Ricciardo shouldn’t take a year off
Daniel Ricciardo “he didn’t suddenly become a bad driver”, says Sky’s Martin Brundle. Still, F1 is about fine margins and whether another team is prepared to “take a chance” on the Aussie remains to be seen.
Ricciardo is widely reported to be considering taking a year out of F1 as more seats become available for the 2024 season.
Whether it’s a wise decision or not, TJ13 takes a look at how F1 drivers have fared over the years after taking a break from the sport.
READ MORE: Ricciardo ‘year off’ nonsense given Haas bid
Oh my…: https://t.co/IwSTK1fDdu
— Adam Cooper (@adamcooperF1) September 24, 2022
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