The 2014 Formula 1 season has so far been dominated by the seemingly unbeatable Mercedes team; the resurgent Silver Arrows have recorded six straight wins from six races, including five 1-2 finishes. They appeared unstoppable; until a 24-year-old Australian with a trademark ear-to-ear grin put an end to their dream run. Daniel Ricciardo, in his fourth year in the sport and his first with Red Bull, claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in a drama-filled thriller at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Triumph after Daniel Ricciardo’s early struggles
It was lucky seven for the Australian in Canada, who started the season with more bad luck than good. After a remarkable performance finishing second in Australia with his first Formula 1 podium in front of a home crowd, he was later disqualified for a technical infringement. His misfortune continued in Malaysia where a puncture and a broken nosecone forced him to retire and then, to add insult to injury, he was hit with a 10-place grid penalty for the next race after an unsafe release due to a pit-stop error. In Bahrain he stormed his way from thirteenth to fourth, he out-qualified and out-raced his teammate quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in China, then in Spain Daniel Ricciardo officially finished on the podium with a third place, matching that again two weeks later in Monaco.
Rising through the Ranks
So who is this young gun from Down Under with the cheeky, cheerful personality who earned the coveted spot at the top Formula 1 team when fellow countryman Mark Webber retired? Ricciardo (pronounced ri-car-do) was born on 1 July 1989 in Perth, Western Australia. His Motorsport career began at the tender age of nine when he started karting; then earning his stripes as he came up through the ranks with drives in Formula Ford, Formula BMW and Formula Renault.
In 2009 he followed in the footsteps of fellow Formula 1 greats Sir Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, winning the British Formula 3 Championship. This year also saw the beginning of Daniel Ricciardo’s partnership with Red Bull Racing, starting with them as an end-of-season test driver and continuing through the 2010 season as a reserve driver with them and sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula 1 Debut
Ricciardo made his Formula 1 race debut with the HRT team at the 2011 British Grand Prix, racing with them for the remainder of the season while still working with Red Bull Racing driving in their simulator in Milton Keynes, England. He spent his time focused on perfecting his craft while sacrificing time with friends and family to gain valuable experience, and his dedication and hard work would not be in vain; his steely determination paid off when Red Bull Racing, impressed with his ability and effort, named him as a full-time driver with Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2012 season.
Move to the top team at Infiniti Red Bull
Formula 1’s new rising star spent two seasons with the Red Bull sister team, recording six top 10 finishes in his first year and seven the next. His performance impressed; in 2013 Daniel Ricciardo was confirmed as Mark Webber’s successor in the much sought after position with the championship winning Infiniti Red Bull Racing team. The Australian would follow the path new teammate Sebastian Vettel took in 2009 when he switched from the development team Toro Rosso to Red Bull.
With the world watching and the immense pressure of stepping up to race for the sport’s top team, the affable Aussie took it all in his stride, downplaying his form and remaining modest about his achievements. Even after his disqualification in Australia, he conducted himself with dignity and humility and showed a maturity far beyond his years. Having now secured his first Formula 1 victory, the initial pressure is off and he has the confidence going into race weekends knowing he can win. Daniel Ricciardo is fast establishing himself as a talent to watch for the future; he is incredibly disciplined and determined, and has the skill and temperament to go all the way.
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Main Photo Via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images