Daniel Ricciardo has joined the upper echelon of F1’s very best drivers.
In the paddock, a big rumour is that for its new works Honda partnership beginning next year, McLaren is on the market for one of the sport’s ‘big three’ drivers. They are Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. But is a new kid on the block about to join their calibre? So far in 2014, Australian Ricciardo has stunned the paddock with his rise from Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso. He has undoubtedly humbled reigning quadruple world champion Vettel over the first half of the season, recording two wins to the German’s none.
25-year-old Ricciardo, two years younger than Vettel, recorded his second career win on Sunday, audaciously overtaking none other than Hamilton and Alonso for good measure in Hungary. Asked if he has now established himself at the top of F1, Spaniard Alonso agreed afterwards: “Yeah, definitely. I think he’s leading the champion team. That says it all.” Hamilton agreed: “Not only one of the nicest guys in the paddock but also one of the best drivers here, for sure.” Throughout 2014, although regularly beaten by Ricciardo, Vettel has kept up an amiable relationship with the Australian, including in Hungary where he appeared for the customary post-victory team photo.
Still, the plaudits are not flowing quite as smoothly from his mouth. Vettel looked to have the upper hand on Ricciardo around the twisty Hungaroring until the race, where the safety car and a spin halted his progress. “It was not a good race,” he is quoted by Germany’s DPA news agency. “It was simply a question of being at the right place at the right time.” Vettel said the safety car helped Ricciardo. “That was his good luck,” he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. “And then he did everything right.” Vettel is now looking forward to the summer break, which is “good for everyone. It was a tough first half of the season,” he admitted.
Image: Red Bull