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.