• The Inside Line

Reflections on Ricciardo

Kate Walker
September 3, 2013
Daniel Ricciardo in a typically good mood © Getty Images
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The first time I met Daniel Ricciardo was on a flight to Canada in 2010. It was my second race as an accredited F1 journalist, and one of his first big outings as a Red Bull young driver. Not that I knew as much at the time.

Several hours into the flight, we started chatting. Not having a clue who the young Australian beside me was, I asked him what he was doing in Montreal. When he told me he was going to the grand prix as Red Bull's third driver, I wanted to crawl under the seat to die.

As we were sitting in economy, there simply wasn't the space to do so.

And there was no real need. The well brought up young man that he was - and is to this day - Ricciardo did his best to alleviate my embarrassment, joking that there wasn't a journalist in the paddock who could identify a reserve driver. These days, when we pass in the paddock he'll often ask if I know who he is yet, the ever-present grin on his face.

The way in which Daniel responded to that first encounter is what makes me think, more than anything, that the young Australian will be a good fit at Red Bull next year. There's no denying Ricciardo's a talented young racer, and while there's room for improvement he will benefit both from the machinery below him and the team around him as he matures as a racer.

But of course Ricciardo has got what it takes on track. Red Bull will have made sure of that before they signed him, analysing data the likes of which you and I can barely conceive. As a team on course to win their fourth consecutive constructors' title Red Bull are hardly likely to deliberately hamper their chances of a fifth by giving their second seat to someone useless. Mark Webber's replacement was always going to have to be a driver the team was confident could score points.

What really makes Ricciardo a good fit at Red Bull is his affability. He's a nice guy, genuinely friendly, and easy-going. No one has a bad word to say about him - the Australian is a hard worker, a good team player, happy to take on media and sponsorship commitments, and a driver who learns from his mistakes.

While he's not yet a known quantity when it comes to scoring points in front-running equipment, Ricciardo has delivered some strong qualifying performances for Toro Rosso, and is likely to have an easier time of it in races when starting a faster car close to the head of the pack.

Having spent a difficult few years managing the delicate relationship between Webber and Vettel, Ricciardo's arrival in the team will feel like a breath of fresh air. The young Australian is clever enough to know how much he can learn from his multi-titled team-mate, and he will not set about his Red Bull career by burning bridges or causing conflicts.

Whatever the team may say about Ricciardo not being a No. 2, he would do well to act like one in the early part of the season, collecting strong points finishes while not causing too much of a stir. He should observe and learn, building relationships and adjusting to a new team, supporting Vettel before mounting his own title challenge in 2015.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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