Anyone who knows me or has followed me on twitter for a while knows just how much I support (or as some people say, obsessed with) Daniel. However, he is now the 5th oldest driver on the grid at 31 years old, and yet no world championship.
Is he actually an overrated driver with a big personality? Is it down to his machinery rather than his ability itself?
Daniel Ricciardo’s first GP was in 2011 for HRT, so next year will be his 10th year in F1. So how much has he actually achieved? In his time in F1 he has had 7 wins, 3 poles, 31 podiums and obviously, no World Championships. All of these achieved were done in his Red Bull minus the 2 recent podiums with Renault.
When he joined Red Bull, his teammate was the current world champion at the time, which was of course, Sebastian Vettel who had just won his 4th world title so it’s safe to say, not as easy environment to enter into. 2014 seemed to be Daniel’s best year in F1, his first race in Red Bull he finished second but later got disqualified due to illegal fuel flow. He later redeemed himself but achieved his first win in Canada 2014 starting from 6th. That year, he finished third in the drivers championship behind the very dominate Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. He also ended up 3rd in 2016 – showing he is a consistent driver.
From seven of Daniel’s wins, six of them have been from starting outside of the top 6. Including starting 10th in the crazy race which was Baku 2017. When you think of F1 winners you always think ‘its done in qualifying from pole’, however, Daniel really proves this theory wrong. He doesn’t get these by luck either. His race craft, especially his overtakes, are the best that I have witnessed and the equal threat of him lunging late on the breaks (best remembered at the hairpin in China or at Turn 2 at Hungary) highlights his race craft.
Another reason, which doesn’t get talked about enough is his performance vs his teammates. His noticeable teammates have been Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and more recently Esteban Ocon. In 2014, he beat Sebastian Vettel by 70 points – many may argue, that his head wasn’t in the championship as he was going to Ferrari, but ultimately, he still finished 70 points ahead which could have been more without his disqualification in Aus.
In recent years we have seen the real talent that Max has, not only in qualifying but his race pace. Alongside him, Gasly and Albon have really struggled to be on that same level. However, when Daniel was his teammate, he was there. Their qualifying pace was very similar in 2018 with Daniel’s average gap to Max being 0.145. Although on average Daniel was slower, when you compare it to recent years, no one has been that close in the same machinery to Max. When Daniel did outqualify Max, he got 2 pole positions that season with a standout lap in Mexico being a personal highlight. Although Max did better in the overall driver’s championship, it has to be remembered that Daniel had 8 retirements this season vs Max’s 3.
Nevertheless, this season has showed truly why Daniel deserves to be in top machinery. The Renault is a midfield car, yet we have seen truly stunning performances getting everything out of his car that he possibly can. Two podiums in three races is thoroughly impressive when Renault have waited since 2011, and I’m still waiting for Cyril’s tattoo! Luck does play a part in F1, but he has been there to capitalise being best of the rest.
So my overall thoughts? Daniel Ricciardo is by no way overrated. Given the machinery he would win a world champion. Hopefully with the regulation changes coming in 2022, Mclaren will be at the front of grid and Daniel can what he deserves!