One of the friendliest faces on the grid, but masking a steely determination at the wheel, Daniel Ricciardo has been one of Formula 1's most popular drivers since debuting in the sport. One of many Red Bull academy graduates now in motorsport, the Australian enjoyed the best successes of his career with the team before deciding to up sticks and join Renault's ambitious project for the 2019 season.
Having won titles in Formula Renault and British Formula 3 in his junior days, Ricciardo was drafted into Red Bull's talent programme, appearing in young driver tests for the team in 2009 and 2010, as well as being handed test driver status for Toro Rosso. Ricciardo was racing in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2011 when he was drafted into the struggling HRT team to replace Narain Karthikeyan, making his F1 debut at the British Grand Prix and racing in 10 more grands prix that year.
Ricciardo stepped up to Toro Rosso as a full-time driver for 2012 and scored his first F1 points in his home-race debut in Australia with a ninth-place finish. The team were in a slight slump in competitiveness during Ricciardo's time, but he still displayed his talents with numerous points finishes, as well as outscoring team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne (albeit by a single point) across the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Red Bull promotion, taking on the champion
Ricciardo was chosen to fill the void left by fellow Aussie Mark Webber retiring from F1, putting Ricciardo alongside quadruple defending champion Sebastian Vettel in a Red Bull team that he had moulded around him perfectly over the previous five seasons.
However, the 2014 campaign came with significant regulation changes, which saw Red Bull's dominance quickly dissipate. While Vettel struggled with a need to alter his driving style, Ricciardo's relative unfamiliarity with Red Bull's previous cars was perhaps to his advantage and he outscored Vettel across the campaign. After having second place taken away in Australia due to a fuel-flow issue, Ricciardo scored his first F1 podium in Spain, added another in the following race in Monaco and was on the top step in the next one, skirting around Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as they battled mechanical issues to take his first win.
Safety-car fortune in Hungary and an ability to hold off a charging Rosberg in Belgium gave Ricciardo two more wins in his rookie Red Bull campaign and Vettel's departure at the end of the season left him as the senior driver alongside Daniil Kvyat for 2015 – a season which saw Red Bull fail to win a race for the first time since 2008, with Ricciardo suffering badly through reliability issues.
Verstappen's arrival, and subsequent battles
Kvyat was dropped after the 2016 Russian GP, which had seen him twice hit Vettel's Ferrari, paving the way for 18-year-old Max Verstappen to join from Toro Rosso. Verstappen won on his debut for Red Bull in Spain, becoming F1's youngest race winner in the process, although Red Bull giving him a favourable strategy compared to Ricciardo played a large part, as Ricciardo had been the one to take the lead of the race after Rosberg and Hamilton crashed out on lap one.
Ricciardo was again denied cruelly in Monaco when, having secured pole position an leading the race, Red bull's mechanics did not meet the driver for a pit-stop, costing him the time needed for Hamilton to overtake him and win. Ricciardo gained a measure of recompense in Malaysia that year, getting the better of Verstappen in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle which proved crucial once Hamilton suffered an engine blowout from the lead. Ricciardo finished above Verstappen in 2017, their first full season as team-mates, although took just one win – in Azerbaijan compared to two for the Dutchman.
The 2018 season saw Ricciardo and Verstappen's battle grow in intensity, particularly back in Baku, where Red bull suffered a double DNF when the pair crashed into each other on the main straight, having squabbled for position over much of the race. Ricciardo had taken a brilliant win in China the race prior and soon after gained full redemption in Monaco, where he won from pole despite suffering with engine trouble. However, Ricciardo soon faded from the title picture and suffered a season-high eight DNFs – including in Mexico, where he also started from pole position.
Switch to Renault
Ricciardo was linked with both Mercedes and Ferrari regularly through 2018 – the final year of his Red Bull deal. It appeared, however, that he would remain at the team for 2019, but Ricciardo stunned Red Bull, and the wider F1 world, in the 2018 summer break when announcing he would join Renault's works team for 2019. The move was made all the more controversial as Red Bull had recently announced they would ditch Renault as an engine supplier for 2019 and switch to Honda.
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