After a sensational first year at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo has created some great memories for the team

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Few could have predicted the year that Daniel Ricciardo has enjoyed in F1. While the Mercedes drivers have gone toe-to-toe at the front of the field for the championship, the smiley Australian has made waves further back, picking up three superb race wins.

At all three races, Mercedes saw its advantage diminish, be it due to internal conflict, technical issues or even the weather. On each occasion, it was Ricciardo who came through to make the most of the Silver Arrows’ demise and claim his first wins in F1.

Perhaps the more staggering fact about his season is that Ricciardo has outclassed four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, who will leave Red Bull at the end of the year, seemingly bound for Ferrari.

With 214 points, Ricciardo is guaranteed to finish the 2014 Formula 1 season in third place behind Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and he has given Red Bull some great memories in his first year with the team.

“For me the highlight of the season was Dan’s win at Spa,” Red Bull head of aerodynamics Dan Fallows said. “We expected a tough weekend fighting the Mercedes-powered teams, but both drivers were excellent using a dry setup in wet qualifying.

“Our pace was then good enough in the dry race to allow Dan to capitalise on the Mercedes drivers colliding and win for the third time.”

“I think it has to be the win in Canada,” said race team manager Jonathan Wheatley when asked for his highlight of the year. “There was this tremendous release of all the pressure we’d been under all year.

“I know we have won a lot of races but there was something really special about that one and obviously it was the first win for Daniel. It came on top of a great team performance all weekend, the pit stops were fantastic so it has to be Canada for me.”

For support team manager Tony Burrows, the highlight came at the star of the year. “Daniel being on the podium at the first race – a matter of weeks before, we imagined that race would see us dicing with cars at the back, before catching fire and stopping,” he said.

“That turnaround was drastic, we went from a complete nightmare to a podium and we were reasonably on the pace.”

However, Ricciardo and co. will be hoping that the best is yet to come, with next weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi worth double points. Regardless of his end result there, though, he has been nothing short of a revelation in F1 this year.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).