Rookie Report 2011: Daniel Ricciardo

Hands up, who honestly saw this coming? We’ve had months and months of speculation over when (not if) Daniel Ricciardo will slip into a Toro Rosso seat, which one was up for argument, but before Canada the guillotine was closing in on Jaime Alguersuari. Under pressure the young Spaniard picked up the pace and delivered two career best placings, but still lags behind team mate Sebastien Buemi overall. Despite these impressive performances though, questions were still being asked and Alguersuari looked vulnerable.

But then…but then yesterday a rumour surfaced, peeking out over the top of the F1 Silly Season it spoke of another driver taking an early exit. Narain Karthikeyan was the casualty instead, recently breaking a record that no driver wishes to claim as his own, the first driver to ever finish 24th in a grand prix (Valencia). Ironically breaking his own record of finishing 23rd in China. And being consistently slower than Italian team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi has obviously proved too much for the oft beleaguered Hispania team, clearly wishing to get the jump on Virgin they’ve sequestered the talents of Daniel Ricciardo. And if you’re in any doubt as to how to pronounce his name check > this < out

So how did he end up at Hispania?

First we must get over the shock he hasn’t jumped straight in with a Red Bull branded outfit, but then we must deal with the fact he’s willingly making his Formula 1 debut with Hispania. Although getting to grips with any car will provide him with valuable experience for the future, one must consider whether this is the right decision. But then again, the usual switch over at Toro Rosso occurs before the annual trip to Hungary (Vettel in for Speed, ’07 and Alguersuari in for Bourdais, ’09) so who knows.

Yeah ya do mate

He started his journey to the pinnacle of motor racing aged nine when he climbed inside a kart, taking this well worn route to Formula One proved fruitful for the Western Australian lad. Graduating through the ranks year on year, he began with the Western Australian Formula Ford series in 2005. But a spell, aged 16, in an unreliable car only 3 years younger than him forced him out of the running of the national Formula Ford title race. However his performance in regionals won him a scholarship for the Formula BMW Asian series, finishing third in 2006 allowed him to graduate to Europe and a Formula Renault life. Driving for SG Formula he won the Formula Renault 2.o West European Cup with 8 top-step podiums. In the following year he took the British Formula Three championship title home, this time with 7 wins.

Ricciardo's 7th win of 2008

The year 2009 was a pivotal one for the Perth native, he made his debut on the Formula One scene with a three day stint in a Red Bull for the young driver’s test in Jerez, Spain. Here Ricciardo went over a second faster than anyone else, and his results gained him a test/reserve seat for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso, by providing valuable and intelligent feedback for the team. Off the back of Red Bull’s 2010 double title win he ran in the young driver’s test again, this time going faster than newly crowned champion Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying lap. Showing his adaptability at short notice and outright speed, he’s set himself up well to join the F1 fraternity.

Getting ready to drive the 2010 winning car

Daniel Ricciardo has impressed those around him as he became a regular fixture in the Friday practice sessions, this season taking it in turns with Buemi and Alguersuari on alternate race weekends. What has been surprising is that in his limited time behind one of the most expensive steering wheels in operation, is that he would sometimes be faster than the full-time drivers. Ricciardo is a well turned out product of the successful Red Bull Young Driver’s programme, and it is only a matter of time until he earns his wings.

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