Team: Infiniti Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 5
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Laps Led: 72
Championship Position: 3rd
Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)
$10 says you’re smiling when reading this article about Daniel Ricciardo. What a great year for the amiable Australian. Oozing positivity, his season got off to a bittersweet start on home soil in Australia when, after finishing on the podium, he was disqualified. Another setback came in Malaysia with a retirement, but he eventually scored his first top-three finish in Spain.
The breakthrough came in Canada, though, when Ricciardo took full advantage of Mercedes’ technical woes to claim his maiden grand prix victory. As the chasing pack consisting of Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa dithered, Dan was the man to grab the race by the throat and claim a memorable first win.
Ricciardo’s second in Hungary was of the same ilk, capitalizing on the weather to passing both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso late on to win the race, saying: “That’s how you do it, ladies” over the radio as he swept past. Yet again at Spa, he won when the Mercedes drivers clashed, finishing the year with three wins.
All three were opportunistic victories, but all were taken in superb fashion. Few could have predicted Ricciardo enjoying such an incredible debut year with Red Bull, and even fewer foresaw him outclassing Sebastian Vettel. This was clear yet again at the final race in Abu Dhabi, when, after being excluded from qualifying, Ricciardo stormed to fourth place. Vettel could only finish eighth.
Heading into 2015, Ricciardo will step up as team leader as Vettel moves to Ferrari, but if 2014 is anything to go by, Red Bull’s future is in very safe hands. It’s tough to say whether Ricciardo or Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was the breakout start of the season – my call would be Dan, though.
Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)
I think Daniel Ricciardo managed to get the best out of both what he’d seen from Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in his maiden season at Red Bull in order to maximize the year the way he did, and end a deserved third in the World Championship.
Being Australian, he was always going to compare favorably to Webber and being his replacement, he was always going to be judged against what Webber did. But like his predecessor, Ricciardo was always a candid interview, yet remained with a steel focus on the job at hand. Webber’s Twitter handle is @AussieGrit for a reason, and Ricciardo’s oughta be @SmileyGrit if no one’s secured it…
Much like Vettel has done throughout the tenure of his Red Bull career, Ricciardo became something of an assassin once actually in the car, while smiling so much before and afterwards. The pace he’d shown in his Toro Rosso days translated, but no one could have foreseen Ricciardo smashing Vettel in the ways he did this year.
He seized all three opportunities available to him when it came to winning races. He was a passing superstar on the days he didn’t qualify well, or started poorly off the line. Most of all, he managed to make four-time champion Vettel look ordinary, and that was perhaps his greatest achievement in a popular, breakout season.