Daniel Ricciardo, a name which instantly sounds like a superstar. Once you add the million-dollar smile and a spectacular ability to brake late into a corner on any race circuit of the Formula 1 calendar – you have a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, in 2019, having left Red Bull Racing, the Perth native was unable to do much reckoning with his rivals on track in the black and yellow of Renault. However, due to a superb final day of 2020 pre-season testing in Barcelona, previous comments seeking to calm any talk of jumping ship to Scuderia Ferrari not to mention a return to the Twittersphere winding up his rivals – 2020 may see the Honey Badger back at the top once again.
Daniel Ricciardo has real pedigree in Formula 1 due to the reputation he is earned and the seven Formula 1 Grand Prix victories he achieved racing for Red Bull Racing. Highlights being his first victory in Montreal back in 2014 right up to his courageous drive in Monaco and some stunning overtaking in Shanghai – both victories achieved in 2018.
Prior to his 2020 pre-season testing success, having taken January off from the social media platform, Daniel Ricciardo was back tweeting once again and February 15th saw a return to the jovial Aussie’s best critiquing the helmet designs of his rivals:
‘I love everyone releasing their new helmet for this year. Real cute guys. Really. Original too. Don’t worry I’ll save the day.’
What followed in response were tweets from Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean showcasing their ‘lids’ and the much-loved Aussie would dismiss each in good humoured fashion…well, Grosjean never got a reply – his helmet was met with a deafening silence. The back and forth between Ricciardo and Norris whetted the appetite for future comical encounters between the pair in 2020.
Such action is why the personality of Daniel Ricciardo draws as many fans to him as his race craft. Recent months of dissatisfaction with the Renault package of 2019 led many to see a more critical commentator of his team’s product. However, this past week, Ricciardo effectively nailed his colours to the mast, regarding any Ferrari speculation, at Wednesday’s lunch time press conference last week:
"I will answer calls, for sure…But I most importantly want this to work. I don't want it to feel like I've just come to Renault, got away from Red Bull and then I'm just looking for the next best thing. I really want to make this happen and make it work."
Such a declaration will be music to the ears of Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul, who stunned the paddock (especially Christian Horner) in 2018 when it was announced that they had stolen (or bought) their man from Red Bull Racing. For 2020, the package handed to the Honey Badger certainly looks a step up on 2019.
On the final day of the second pre-season test in Barcelona, Daniel Ricciardo topped the morning session thanks to putting on the softest C5 tyre compound and taking to the track late on. His time of 1:16.276s being second fastest of the whole session.
Such a performance on Friday, reinforces the belief shared by Ricciardo...previously on the Wednesday:
"Hopefully [we] get enough out of it that the journey continues beyond my two-year contract…That's the ideal scenario. To talk about other what ifs, and the future, it's still too early, you don't want to rock the boat…obviously as well, but… we haven't even started this year so to already start thinking about '21... I can't think about it now.”
Daniel Ricciardo may not wish to rock the boat, but he certainly intends to shake up the Formula One grid and all being well – he won’t have to wait too long to do it.
Maybe…just maybe…Daniel Ricciardo’s eighth Formula 1 victory will come to him in 2020. Such an achievement would put a wide smile on many a Formula One fan’s face.