What Happened to the Australian Honey-Badger Daniel Ricciardo?



Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) McLaren. Singapore Grand Prix, Thursday 29th September 2022. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore..

Max B (Year 10)

Australia has produced many Formula 1 Drivers, with some having incredible careers (and others…well, have not). The country has produced some of the best in the world, such as Mark Webber, David Brabham, Daniel Ricciardo, and the up-and-coming Oscar Piastri.  

 Over the past decade, we witnessed the amazing career of Daniel Ricciardo. After coming up in the Redbull Young Driver Programme he was given a chance to prove himself with a Formula 1 debut at the British Silverstone Grand Prix with HRT in 2011. After staying with them for the rest of the season, he scored a promotion to the Redbull Sister Team Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri) for the 2012 Season.  

 In his 2012 season, he was quick to score points at his home Grand Prix in Melbourne. He took a hard hit in the first half of the season, not being able to get in the points until Torro Rosso changed their technical director from Girgio Ascanelli – with this move, the Australian was soon back in contention. 

 Nearing 2014, Ricciardo had his head high at Torro Rosso. That is until Mark Webber announced his retirement from Formula One. The retirement took Redbull to sign Ricciardo for the 2014 Season. 

 Ricciardo joined the reigning champions – Redbull – in 2014. The car, however, was not stacking up to the Mercedes, which was dominating. Despite this, the Redbull machinery was capable of winning races – especially in the hands of Daniel Ricciardo.  

 To the surprise of many people around the world, the three races the car won were not in the hands of the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel (Ricciardo’s partner at Redbull) but the races were surprisingly won by the new kid on the block – Daniel Ricciardo. 

However, this soon took a turn – the Redbull team struggling because of most of the time powerless Renault Engine in 2015 and questionable strategies with Max Verstappen (Ricciardo’s new teammate) in 2016, Ricciardo was starting to be out qualified

The year of 2017 Verstappen finished on a high, winning two of the last six rounds in the season. Ricciardo had an enjoyable time in Baku after a dramatic race falling to 17th position at one point in the race. 

 The 2018 season came around and Verstappen had a rough start to it, whilst Ricciardo was going on an incredible year. Ricciardo won the first two out of his six races, finally avenging his two-year streak by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, making him look like a title contender. However, this did not last long, as he ran up the back of his teammate on the streets of Baku. 

 Near the end of the 2018 season, it was unknown what would happen to Ricciardo’s contract. Then, it was released that he would be joining Renault for the 2019 season.  

 In 2019, after joining Renault, Ricciardo did not have the best season – suffering from multiple reliability problems. This brought Renaults 2019 Season to finish in 5th place in the constructors Championship. 

 After the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020, there was a delay to the start of the season. Ricciardo had to wait and see if the car had gotten an improvement since the previous year. His future was looking unknown until Carlos Sainz Jr left the McLaren Team for the Red Ferrari’s.  

 During his 2021 Season he found the car a little difficult to adjust to having a DNF in Brazil and unhappy results in following races. After qualifying second at Monza the feeling of being on the podium again after multiple years struck on Ricciardo. He took the highest spot on the podium taking 1st bringing his teammate Lando Norris with him into Second. 

 “That Monza Win” was the first win for the McLaren team in ten years!
Following that he had an excellent result in Russia steering is MCL35 into 4th place.  

Ricciardo finished the 2021 Season in 8th position in the Drivers’ Championship. 

 Daniel Ricciardo’s 2022 Season has not been as good or “up to standard” (as according to Zac Brown). On July 8, 2022, Ricciardo put a message on his Instagram story saying that he will be seeing out his contract with McLaren until the end of 2023.  

 It was not until August 23, 2022, where he shared a video on social media, “Hey everyone, I wanted to share some news, it is not great it is bittersweet for sure. It is not great, but it is best you hear it from me. 2022 will be my last year with McLaren”. This was after an agreed termination of his contract from both parties. We would soon find out that Oscar Piastri another Australian Driver would be replacing him and had signed for the team at the British Grand Prix for the 2023 Season this was a month before he made any announcement

The thought of Ricciardo not being on the grid in 2023 was a shock to many. Retiring four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel commented on the situation, saying “McLaren did not extract his full potential.” RedBull’s Christian Horner also backed Ricciardo for a seat at Alpine.  

 Another option was a Reserve Driver Role at one of the top teams such as Mercedes where he was spotted leaving. Could this be his spot in 2023? Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said he does not suit the role of being “the third driver” as he believes Ricciardo should be racing instead.  

 Ricciardo has recently opened up about the 2023 grid and is contemptuous about not having a seat. 

 So, what has happened to The Australian Honey Badger Daniel Ricciardo? Did he leave RedBull in his prime? Or did he just get dealt a bad hand?  

 The Australian driver is running out of options, with only Williams and HAAS not having another driver. So, will the 12-month sabbatical be the best option, or will we somehow see the presence of Ricciardo on the grid again in 2023? Only time will tell.