Half Term Report: Daniel Ricciardo

The Rookie Report:

Daniel Ricciardo

Rising through the ranks with the substantial backing of the Red Bull Junior Team sponsorship programme, Daniel Ricciardo’s name has floated about the paddock for some time. Spotted by Red Bull he joined the books in 2008, he remains on them to this day as he races for Hispania after replacing Narain Karthikeyan. With in season testing slowly edging its way back into Formula One it’s hard to begrudge the Red Bull approach to getting their drivers the necessary experience. And this is not the first time they’ve had too much talent and not enough seats, in Red Bull’s first season (2005) Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien were forced to share a seat alongside David Coulthard, Scott Speed could only manage a reserve role. This is when Red Bull bought out Minardi and renamed it Scuderia Toro Rosso, and gifted itself the opportunity to give up and coming drivers vital Formula One experience. The most successful graduate of the scheme so far is undoubtedly Sebastian Vettel who gave Toro Rosso their first win in 2008. With the instantly recognisable logo on his chest the Australian has become the first from the western region to race in Formula One, and did so from Silverstone.

The Stats:

Races completed 3
Points 0
Retirements 0
Out-qualified team mate 0
Higher race position than team mate 2
Highest qualifying position 23rd
Highest race position 18th
Average qualifying position 24th
Average race position 19th

The Season:

His first taste of a full time F1 seat

Unlike his fellow rookie drivers he’s only got a few races under his belt before the summer break loomed into view, despite coming into the season halfway though he’s gotten on with the job admirably. The announcement that Ricciardo would be joining Hispania was met with a mixture of understanding and bewilderment, Karthikeyan wasn’t pulling in the results and regularly brought up the rear of the field. However what would Ricciardo learn from joining one of the backmarkers? A regular attendee at Friday practice with Toro Rosso, he could be seen getting ahead of the other driver which led to suspicions that either Alguersuari or Buemiwould be leaving come the end of 2011. Though since bucking their ideas up it looks likely that Red Bull’s little Italian sister would be keen to keep the current line up, but without the word ‘contract’ being uttered who knows what will happen?

Ricciardo is doing all-white (image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images Europe)

With Hispania Ricciardo isn’t just learning about how to be overtaken, he’s getting his head around the press schedule, contributing the team in explicit detail and building his stamina for a weekend in front of the FOM cameras. Ricciardo took over from Karthikeyan at the British Grand Prix, and with his feet firmly wedged in his new office he embarked on life as a Hispania driver. And as expected the experience of Liuzzi proved too much for Ricciardo to overcome in both qualifying and the race. However his Formula One debut went without a hitch, a clean and incident free race is really what you want, but despite this he finished last.

When some faltered in Germany, Liuzzi’s electrics for one, Ricciardo kept his Hispania chugging along to reach the chequered flag by himself. Technically this counts as finishing ahead of his team mate, but in reality this doesn’t count as the man he was trying to beat wasn’t able to fight, although more importantly he had another clean race under his belt. Liuzzi continues to best Ricciardo in qualifying making it three for three in Hungary, the Australian gets ahead of him when it mattered. On race day, both drivers crossed the line but it was the man in only his third race who was classified ahead.

The Verdict:

Careering up to the summer break Daniel Ricciardo had only completed three races, and so to make deep and insightful about his season based on those few outings would be prudent. However when you take his performances with Toro Rosso into account he has shown his ability to adapt to his machine with ease. Coming within a tenth of Buemi in his first practice as a test driver for Red Bull’s sister team during practice in Australia had people noticing. And he’s even managed to get ahead of the current drivers before his transfer. Consistency and a habit for bringing the car back in one piece will serve him well, and when he starts qualifying ahead of Liuzzi, that is when we’ll see him excel and push ahead. All the way to Red Bull? Or will he make a stop at Toro Rosso first?

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