Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 7
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 4
Laps Led: 74
Championship Position: 3rd
Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)
Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a testing 2015 season in convincing fashion. Expectations may have been low for Red Bull heading into 2016, but Ricciardo exceeded any pre-season hopes the team had with his strongest season yet in Formula 1.
Sure, he only won a single grand prix – and a lucky win at that – but Ricciardo pushed the Mercedes drivers harder than anyone else in the field. He should have won in Spain had Red Bull not misjudged his strategy, and would have won in Monaco had it not been for a mighty mistake in the pits, so getting that breakthrough victory in Malaysia was really Ricciardo’s just desserts.
Through it all, Ricciardo acted with his regular grace and charm. The smile was only wiped off his face in Monaco, otherwise remaining on his face all season long. Lewis Hamilton may be the most well-known F1 driver at the moment, but Ricciardo is the character that can take over as the sport’s next superstar in the future. He gave us his (fairly good!) Texas accent in Austin. He gave his face make-up in Mexico. And, most memorably, he gave us – and those who ended up with him on the podium – the ‘shoey’.
Underneath it all though, Ricciardo remains a fierce competitor and immensely talented racer. Watch out for the Honey Badger in the 2017 title race.
Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)
F1’s version of Buddy the Elf – “Smiling’s my favorite!” – the happy-go-lucky Australian only rarely lost that effervescent glow all season, and he probably could have lost it more considering how hard done he was on strategy at multiple races this season. If you’ve made Daniel Ricciardo mad and lose his smile, you know you’ve screwed up.
Ricciardo basically got screwed three races in a row, with strategy pitfalls at Spain, Monaco and Canada costing for sure one and possibly two wins, and later ones also occurred throughout the year. It was hard not to feel this Australian was getting the Mark Webber treatment at times, even though Ricciardo was still the team’s number one driver in terms of points and qualifying record (11-6 over team newcomer Max Verstappen).
The Monaco loss was a crushing one and was perhaps balanced out by his lucky return to the top in Malaysia, but it was a win still properly deserved. Ricciardo’s attitude, humor, upbeat and pace package is hard to top within all of racing – not just F1 – and should be celebrated. Provided he has a car with which to do so next year, it’d be great to see him properly contend for a World Championship.