Column: 2018 could be the last time we see Ricciardo smile

Published on 13 Feb 2018 10:27

The upcoming season could be Daniel Ricciardo’s final year racing for Red Bull but it could also be his last chance on going for the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship.

The F1 community labels Ricciardo as ‘the smile assassin’ for his consistent big grin on the grid, especially when we witness his winning moments on top of the podium. The Aussie has sure been a fine replacement for fellow Australian Mark Webber when he retired at the end of the 2013 season. But both have one major career problem in common, they share no world championship glory between them.

For Webber, his time is up but Ricciardo may sense the opportunity of becoming a world champion getting slimmer and slimmer. Ricciardo is labelled as one of the nicest guy anyone has ever come across on the track, but perhaps he needs to change his attitude with an aggressive touch to take no prisoners in the hunt for race wins.

The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix saw him become very unhappy when his pit team failed to keep him ahead of Hamilton for first place. We saw a substantially different Ricciardo on the podium that day. It could have started a new Ricciardo image of not being a Mr nice guy for now on, where we would really see a true competitor in the Red Bull driver. However, his bid to become world champion has not really progressed since then.

The 2017 season saw what a strong team Red Bull could be for the next calendar. Strong finishes including three race wins along with another 10 podium places. There has been glimpses where Christian Horner and his team can compete with Mercedes at the top. Off the track we’ve also seen a good chemistry between Ricciardo and his fierce young team mate Max Verstappen. 

Social media is a good format for race drivers and F1 teams to interact with their fans, and the Red Bull crew certainly like to have some fun in-between race weekends. Off the grid we see Ricciardo and Verstappen enjoy their social media stints together along with their interviews with the media. They are a good representation of friendship at work but that could all change in the upcoming season.

Verstappen is the future of F1 and if everything is put into place, the Dutchman may only be around the corner from getting his hands on his first world championship.

Since Verstappen famously became the youngest race winner by clinching the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, the 20-year-old has become more and more confident behind the wheel. The first part of last season was a period to forget after retiring five times out of the first 11 races. But the summer break proved to put Verstappen up a gear by beating Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia and comfortably breezing through in Mexico to end the season with more wins than his team mate.

The wins in Malaysia and Mexico displayed why many expect Verstappen to become a future world champion. Verstappen’s spell at Red Bull so far has surely put him as Red Bull’s priority after his contract renewal shall keep him at the Milton Keynes team until the end of 2020. This has placed Ricciardo on the back foot reminding him the challenges and rivals he may have to face if he wants to become a world champion.

2018 is currently going to be Ricciardo’s final season at Red Bull if the contract stays untouched. The Australian has hinted of moving on and rumours believe he could make a move to Mercedes or Ferrari, Red Bull’s closest rivals. 

Another doubt towards Ricciardo is his age. Ricciardo will be turning 29 this July and if F1 has taught us anything, it’s that we have recently seen drivers become a first F1 world champion at a younger age. Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were the youngest to taste world championship success. Hamilton was 23 when he won his first driver’s title in 2008 and Vettel was even younger by just a few months at the age of 23 when winning the championship in 2010.

Since then both drivers have been majorly consistent combining over 100 race wins and over 200 podium finishes since 2007. However, many could argue Vettel and Hamilton were in the right teams at the right time but they’ll be remembered for winning at least four world championships each which is a significant achievement.

But the shocking championship steal by 31-year-old Nico Rosberg over Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2016 was a breakthrough moment that the likes of Hamilton and Vettel can be beaten. 

However, Ricciardo may have felt some hurt when Hamilton didn’t mention his name as part of the Briton’s list of major rivals ahead of the 2018 season. Another example that Ricciardo needs to prove that he can race amongst Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen.

Before we enter the pre-season testing for 2018, many of us are unsure if anyone can stop Mercedes from winning the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championships for a fifth year running. If Red Bull can show those promising performances we saw in the last few races of 2017, then they may just be the dark horses for the title - creating an opportunity for Ricciardo and Verstappen which could be a recipe of a repeated Hamilton and Rosberg title showdown. 

2018 is a big year for the Aussie, not only in a bid to become a world champion but to regain that status of a confident and strong winner.


Jamie Davies

Replies (12)
Posts: 1592
Wish him all the best, but I’m affraid Verstappen will dominate him once again. Not counting DNF’s.
Posts: 625
Yes agree, it looks that way. I feel a bit for DannyRic but it’s all about timing and luck and it looks as if he’s short on both counts. I still rate him higher than Bottas and Raikkonen though and I think he may even be on Alonso’s level but streets better than Webber who to me, had all the luck in the F1 world but failed to deliver apart from backflips into a swimming pool. All the same, Webber had a brilliant career, more success than he could have dreamed of as a kid, but DannyRic? I think he’s always going to be disappointed..I hope he never stops grinning though..👍
Posts: 1592
I absolurely agree.
AU JoeAvenger 15 Apr 2018 18:120
Posts: 1
Well done Ricciardo! Some amazing passing on display with no mistakes.

Already double the points of his teammate. It's a shame his engine blew up in Bahrain.

Ricciardo - 37 points
Verstappen - 18 points
US ajpennypacker 13 Feb 2018 22:57+1
Posts: 1507
First of all, I disagree with the premise of the article that people think of Ricciardo as merely a nice guy, especially on track. That's just something the media and fans keep repeating.

Second, I rank Ricciardo as a top 3 driver on the grid. I'll let you decide who the other two should be. Last year was an "off" year for Ricciardo, and had he been next to any other driver, he would have still looked brilliant (8 podiums and a win). This is still the driver that comprehensibly outclassed Vettel in his first year in Red Bull. Arguably the best overtaker in F1. He's only problem has been the extremely dominant Mercedes the last 4 years. I am very confident that if he doesn't stay with Red Bull, Mercedes will snatch him. Ferrari would too, but I suspect baby Vettel wouldn't allow it.
SE calle.itw 14 Feb 2018 16:380
Posts: 5882
I agree, I dont think 2017 was representative of his form. While next year could be the last time we see him smile, it could very well be a year with him having a permanent wide grin. Enough so that it might tear, so he get Joker scars. Though 2014 wasnt really a representative year for Vettel either. Remember how he struggled with that car, and how many times he retired with it? But you are likely wrong regarding Mercedes snatching him. Hammy would never allow him into his tree club. Its for number 2 drivers only.
Posts: 996
So Ricciardo hasn't signed an new deal yet. I think the top 3 driver rating is spot on. It seems like the decision for what team to drive is based upon ability of the car/team.

The unknown in the equation is the PU of Redbull for the next 2 years. If Honda does make progress then the move to another team becomes less attractive. An Honda/Redbull alliance stopped Verstappen from singing with another team and also I think it will might stop Ricciardo from moving to another team.

If he did move to another team than Ferrari would be an excellent choice, since he already beaten Vettel before.

Looks like It all depends on Toro Rosso success.
SE calle.itw 14 Feb 2018 06:440
Posts: 5882
Or this could be his year. The fun part in that is we dont know.
AU Andrew Abercromby 28 Feb 2018 15:090
Posts: 1
Daniel is the best since the great Ayrton Senna.
This is character assassination.
Had he been in a Mercedes in 2017 that mangy arrogant dog Hamilton would have been licking his wounds.
Max is just a child an impetuous.
Daniel will beat him and the arrogant Vettel this year, and if the RB14 delivers, he will absolutely flog the arrogant Hamilton and Bottas, not to mention the unsportsmanlike Vettel
GB MaritimeBlue 14 Mar 2018 13:10+1
Posts: 1
The guy who accuses the writer of character assassination and proceeds to slag off every driver with notions on their character, as opposed to their driving 😂😂😂
Posts: 996
Welcome. Always nice to see new people joining the debate.
Posts: 6
Better than Michael Schumacher? Not convinced of that. Could of would of should of.

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