One of the most popular drivers in Formula 1 is the fun-loving Australian, Daniel Ricciardo. Often, he’ll be seen around the paddock and pit lane with a big smile, cracking jokes with his fellow competitors. But don’t be fooled by his laid-back demeanour, for Ricciardo also harbours a competitive fire and a brilliant ability to out-brake his opponents in wheel-to-wheel combat.
On the back of his helmet is painted a picture of a honey badger, the animal which he most identifies with. The creature might seem cute, but it has few natural predators thanks to its strength and ferocious defensive abilities.
From a family of Italian descent, Daniel Ricciardo was born in the summer of 1989 in Perth, in Western Australia. He started karting in his home country but knew if he wanted to attain success at the highest level, he had to start competing against the best in the world. So Ricciardo followed the footsteps of many of his racing compatriots and moved to Europe. After performing highly in the junior categories, he was picked up by the Red Bull young driver programme.
Ricciardo made his debut in Formula 1 in 2011 and spent the following two seasons with the Toro Rosso team. During this time Sebastian Vettel was winning everything with Red Bull Racing in Formula 1. The German triumphed with four back-to-back World Championships between 2010-13 and was the man to beat in the sport. After Ricciardo’s apprenticeship at Toro Rosso, he was given the chance to go up against Vettel at Red Bull in 2014.
No one could have foreseen what developed that year. The Australian took three brilliant wins in Canada, Hungary and Belgium, finishing the season third overall in the Drivers’ Championship. Vettel could only manage fifth and decided the time had come to part ways with Red Bull. This was Ricciardo’s team now.
However, he too would ultimately suffer the same fate as Vettel. Early into the 2016 season, Red Bull promoted Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso to race alongside Ricciardo. It was a challenging time for the team – and also Ricciardo – which culminated in both drivers crashing into each other at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Like Vettel before him, Ricciardo could see the writing was on the wall and decided to jump ship.
The seven-time Grand Prix winner secured a lucrative two-year deal to race for Renault, but the French marque was not on a par with its competitors and he could only manage two podiums with the team.
For 2021, the 32-year-old began a new challenge when he signed to drive alongside Lando Norris at McLaren. With his skill in overtaking and his most recent victory coming on the streets of Monaco, there’s no doubt he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in Jeddah’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix later this year.