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Daniel Ricciardo was left without a drive after being dropped by McLaren at the end of last season, but the beloved Australian is back, in an effort to resurrect his Formula 1 career.
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July 10th 2011
A bright career until a wrong choice: Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 career
For Daniel Ricciardo, moving from Australia to Europe at the age of 18 signaled his life-long ambition of becoming a Formula 1 driver. That ambition was realised just four years later. The Australian’s success in junior formula drew the attention of Helmut Marko, who made him a member of the Red Bull Junior Team. It was a decision both men would not regret.
At the start of 2011, he became the reserve driver for Toro Rosso, the team now known as Alpha Tauri. But when he got the call to race in Formula 1, that came from HRT halfway through that season.
The small Spanish team was struggling at the back of the field, but Red Bull loaned him there so that he would be able to gain experience ahead of a campaign with Toro Rosso in 2012. Ricciardo performed well at the team, despite being among the bottom finishers in the underperforming car.
In 2012, the Australian joined Toro Rosso, with an eye at a seat at Red Bull, as the team was in the midst of its four-year championship run. Ricciardo scored in his first race with the team and had an overall consistent and competitive season, on par with his teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne.
A better season came in 2013 and it was needed, as Mark Webber was retiring and that left a seat available it the junior team. With a best finish of seventh, Ricciardo ended the season fourteenth in the standings and earned a promotion to Red Bull, next to four-time champion, Sebastian Vettel.
Victories and podiums: Success at Red Bull
That season started with a podium -his first- at home, although he was later disqualified. But he impressed nevertheless. He was consistently faster than Vettel and took his maiden victory in Canada, after a late-race overtake on Nico Rosberg. At Hungary he claimed another last-gasp victory, before taking his third in Belgium. He was one of the stars of the season, finishing third in points, behind just the dominant pair at Mercedes.
The following season was not as good, as Red Bull underperformed, and it concluded with just two podiums for the Australian. 2016 was positive though. With Max Verstappen as his teammate from the fifth race onwards, Ricciardo was one of the best drivers in the field once again. With eight podiums -a win among those- he was back in the top three in the standings, ahead of Verstappen.
Another victory amid a consistent campaign came in the following season, ahead of a critical 2018. His contract was up at its end and Ricciardo left his options open. In the first six races, he took two victories, the second of which was in Monaco, in a redemption after a cruelly lost victory at the same venue two seasons prior.
But the Australian shocked the paddock by announcing his move to Renault, a team that was in the midfield but offered a bigger contract.
The gambles that did not pay off
The move appeared to be the wrong one. While Red Bull carried on as a regular race-winner, Renault remained in the midfield and Ricciardo fell to ninth in the standings. In 2020, he was a standout driver and finished fifth in the Renault, returning to the podium after two years.
Another move followed in 2021, this time to McLaren. Despite getting outperformed by Lando Norris, it was Ricciardo who captured McLaren’s first victory in nine years, as he won the Italian GP, his first triumph in three years. That result was not indicative of an uptick in performance though, as the Aussie had a bad 2022 season, scoring 37 points to Norris’ 122 and getting dropped by McLaren in favour of Oscar Piastri.
This led him to being left without a seat. He chose to return to the Red Bull family by signing as its reserve driver, which put him into the frame for a seat at Alpha Tauri once Nyck de Vries was dropped.
An ever-smiling man
Daniel Ricciardo is beloved among F1 fans for his positive energy, humour and a smile that rarely goes away. The Australian is also known as the “honey badger” thanks to his personality, as well as his racing style. As he has mentioned, the animal looks cute and cuddly, but it can turn into a savage and will attack anything in its way.
He grew up as a NASCAR fan and a big supporter of legendary figure, Dale Earnhardt. As a result, he has chosen to honour him by racing with #3 on his car since 2014.
He currently is in a relationship with Heidi Berger, the daughter of former F1 driver and race-winner, Gerhard Berger.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Net Worth and Personal Information
Ricciardo’s current contract with Red Bull is not known. His biggest contract to date was the one he signed with Renault, in the range of $30 million per year. His net worth is estimated around $50 million.
- Full name: Daniel Joseph Ricciardo
- DOB: 1 July 1989
- Age: 34
- Place of Birth: Perth, Australia
- Nationality: Australian
- Team: Scuderia AlphaTauri
- Race number: #3
A difficult road to Formula 1
As for every driver born in Australia, chasing the dream of racing in Formula 1 is a big risk. For Daniel Ricciardo, it became a dream worth chasing because of his stellar karting career and a good campaign in the 2006 Formula BMW Asia championship, where he finished third.
In the following season, he moved to Europe, racing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Italy series. His performances there, although not spectacular, were good enough to earn him a seat at the Red Bull Junior Team. From there, two championship wins over the next two years, first in the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC and then in the British Formula 3 Championship, put him firmly on the map for a seat in the top level of motorsport.
In 2010, he moved to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, just a step below F1 and he performed very well to complete his rookie season in second place, two points off the top. A reserve seat at Toro Rosso followed, although the first opportunity came from HRT.
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