F1 2014 Driver Review: Daniel Ricciardo

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Daniel Ricciardo

Team: Infiniti Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 3
Races: 19
Wins: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 5
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 238
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.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds