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.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.