2018 is Daniel Ricciardo's eighth season in Formula One and his fifth driving for Red Bull Racing. With Daniel now most definitely in the prime of his career, ours is one of the longest-standing and most reliable partnerships on the grid.
With over 120 grands prix to his name, Daniel Ricciardo has developed a reputation for hard driving, thrilling overtaking and demon qualifying. Autosport magazine has twice voted him their driver of the year (across all branches of motorsport) and the Laureus World Sports Awards made him their Breakthrough Star in 2015 for his performances in the 2014 Formula One World Championship, his first season with us during which he took three victories and finished the season third in the Drivers' Championship. He's added two more victories since and has racked-up an impressive number of podium finishes.
Daniel came through Red Bull's ranks, launched on the path to a successful motorsports career via the well-established Junior Team. Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, after learning his trade in the Australian Formula Ford and Asia-Pacific Formula BMW competitions, he took the plunge and followed in the footsteps of the southern hemisphere greats by moving to Europe to pit his skills against the best of his generation.
Daniel initially took residence in Italy, contesting the 2007 season in Formula Renault 2.0. He joined our programme in 2008 and won the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC championship. The next year he took the prestigious British Formula 3 title – traditionally a gateway to great things in Formula One. He finished 2009 with a three-day group test at Jerez in the RB5, finished top of the timesheets, completed nearly 300 faultless laps and making our engineers sit up and take notice with his speed, confidence and precise feedback. They also noticed he seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit too.
Off the back of his Formula 3 record and his speedy acclimatisation to the F1 cockpit, Daniel stepped up for 2010, becoming test and reserve driver for Scuderia Toro Rosso while also competing in the World Series by Renault. Daniel narrowly missed out on the FR3.5 title after impressive victories at Hockenheim, the Hungaroring, the Circuit de Catalunya and the showpiece round in Monaco.
He stayed with Toro Rosso for the 2011 season, advancing his education by regularly driving in free practice. He also raced a truncated campaign in FR3.5 and again won the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix support race, complete with pole position and fastest lap. These striking performances in the first half of the year led to Daniel being loaned to Spanish F1 team HRT for the final 11 rounds of the 2011 F1 season. He made his F1 race debut at Silverstone, and strong performances for the backmarker led to confirmation of a race seat with Toro Rosso in 2012.
In two years with Toro Rosso, Daniel established himself as a future star of Formula One. Lightning qualifying performances were backed up with grands prix that blended aggression and intelligence: Daniel pushed the limit – but he also brought the car home. During his two years at Red Bull Racing's sister team, Daniel punched above his weight to score points in 13 of his 39 grands prix and established a reputation as a gritty, confident racer, sure in his decisions and capable of getting the best out of his machinery. He was awarded the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy for 2013 in in recognition of his efforts. When Mark Webber announced his retirement from F1, Daniel was the natural and ready-made replacement for Red Bull Racing.
The immediate question in the minds of many was how Daniel would shape up with four-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel as a team-mate. "A lot of people have been asking the question," said Daniel at the time. "Obviously, it's my biggest challenge yet ...but hopefully it's his biggest challenge too."
To the outside world, Daniel exceeded expectations in 2014 but the view from inside was that he did the job as anticipated. He didn't come into the team cold: Daniel had tested our cars on many occasions, frequently been our driver for Live Demo appearances and, perhaps most pertinently, served his time as our simulator driver, logging long days in Milton Keynes, providing factory support as the race team travelled the globe. To our engineers he was a known quantity: fast, smart and capable of providing the type of feedback that proved crucial in a season dominated by technical development.
Daniel hit the ground running at Red Bull Racing with his wins in Canada, Hungary and Belgium and outscored his illustrious team-mate. Since then he's been a model of consistency, delivering impeccable performance after impeccable performance. With a car that hasn't always been as competitive as we would wish, he's become a master of maximising the opportunities on offer: stealing podiums that were not really his to take, and adding to his victory tally with the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix and last year's race in Azerbaijan.
Victory in Baku was one of Daniel's nine visits to the podium during 2017. It was a good example of Daniel doing what Daniel does best: on a day when all about were losing their heads, he kept his, avoiding the walls, staying away from trouble and delivering a string of aggressive, millimetre perfect overtaking moves to progress from the back of the field to P1. As has been the case in the past, once he had the lead, he never looked like relinquishing it.
While clinical once the visor is down, out of the car Daniel is a very laid back Aussie, keen on spending as much time as possible outdoors, always searching for the next adventure and eager to get into pretty much any sport you care to mention – but predominantly anything involving wheels.
This is slightly at odds with his alter ego, The Honey Badger, which features prominently in his helmet design. In his own words: "It's pretty cute, you wouldn't think much of it – but, in reality, it's a raging ball of anger that tears things apart. It's a bit like me: don't be fooled by the sunshine exterior, press the right buttons and I can be a very dark individual." Based upon all the available evidence, nobody believes this to be true – but Daniel Ricciardo is indeed a very focused racing driver.