F1 2016 Driver Review: Daniel Ricciardo

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Daniel Ricciardo

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 3
Races: 21
Wins: 1
Podiums (excluding wins): 7
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 4
Points: 256
Laps Led: 74
Championship Position: 3rd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a testing 2015 season in convincing fashion. Expectations may have been low for Red Bull heading into 2016, but Ricciardo exceeded any pre-season hopes the team had with his strongest season yet in Formula 1.

Sure, he only won a single grand prix – and a lucky win at that – but Ricciardo pushed the Mercedes drivers harder than anyone else in the field. He should have won in Spain had Red Bull not misjudged his strategy, and would have won in Monaco had it not been for a mighty mistake in the pits, so getting that breakthrough victory in Malaysia was really Ricciardo’s just desserts.

Through it all, Ricciardo acted with his regular grace and charm. The smile was only wiped off his face in Monaco, otherwise remaining on his face all season long. Lewis Hamilton may be the most well-known F1 driver at the moment, but Ricciardo is the character that can take over as the sport’s next superstar in the future. He gave us his (fairly good!) Texas accent in Austin. He gave his face make-up in Mexico. And, most memorably, he gave us – and those who ended up with him on the podium – the ‘shoey’.

Underneath it all though, Ricciardo remains a fierce competitor and immensely talented racer. Watch out for the Honey Badger in the 2017 title race.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

F1’s version of Buddy the Elf – “Smiling’s my favorite!” – the happy-go-lucky Australian only rarely lost that effervescent glow all season, and he probably could have lost it more considering how hard done he was on strategy at multiple races this season. If you’ve made Daniel Ricciardo mad and lose his smile, you know you’ve screwed up.

Ricciardo basically got screwed three races in a row, with strategy pitfalls at Spain, Monaco and Canada costing for sure one and possibly two wins, and later ones also occurred throughout the year. It was hard not to feel this Australian was getting the Mark Webber treatment at times, even though Ricciardo was still the team’s number one driver in terms of points and qualifying record (11-6 over team newcomer Max Verstappen).

The Monaco loss was a crushing one and was perhaps balanced out by his lucky return to the top in Malaysia, but it was a win still properly deserved. Ricciardo’s attitude, humor, upbeat and pace package is hard to top within all of racing – not just F1 – and should be celebrated. Provided he has a car with which to do so next year, it’d be great to see him properly contend for a World Championship.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.