Daniel Ricciardo’s 200th GP – What the journey has been like for F1’s Honeybadger?

Ricciardo will be seen donning the McLaren kit in his 200th Grand Prix on Sunday.

Dev Tyagi Author

Updated - 27 August 2021 7:54 pm

Formula 1 is about speed and great reflexes we are told. We know that already. But, there’s more. F1 ebbs and flows and while it changes all the time, it makes us continuously marvel at the one irrepressible and unchangeable truth of life. The cars aren’t the only things that move fast. So does time. Ever realized it?

Here’s ample evidence.

Daniel Ricciardo’s first-ever Formula 1 entry was the 2011 British Grand Prix that took place on July 10, 2011. In a short span of time, precisely August 29, 2021, the once goofy character on the grid, one that even wore braces when he first broke into Formula 1, will be entering his 200th Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Until such time, which make no mistake, is a decade in the top annals of the sport, the fastest-form of single-seater GP racing that there exists, has changed a lot. A lot happened… and both for good and bad.

Nico Rosberg became a world champion and quit the sport. Lewis Hamilton became a legend of the sport. Massa got his heart broken. Vettel became the next big thing from Germany. The world got to see an emotional Senna documentary. Kimi Raikkonen helped countless T-shirt brands sell millions of, “Leave me alone T-shirts,” which is after leaving the sport only to come back and make a Lotus win a Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull and Ferrari. Michael Schumacher got himself injured and made fans turn somber.

But one man continued his surge in Formula 1. Some call him Perth’s greatest export to F1 racing and the only driver after Aussie Grit Mark Webber to up the ante of Australian resurgence in F1. However, most call him Daniel Joseph Ricciardo, the legendary Honeybadger.

The man, who most of us suspected would wear a red racing gear and head to Maranello albeit one, who drives around in some of the most daunting circuits in the papaya orange liveried car.

The very man, who unassumingly but with characteristic grit put a Renault- of all cars on the podium last year and on two separate occasions.

Rare are sights when you lose a bet and are still smiling. Need proof? Ask Cyril Abiteboul.

Moreover, in the last decade of being in F1, Daniel Ricciardo has suffered both- agony and ecstasy, heart-cringing as well as heart-breaking moments. While victories in Azerbaijan and China in 2017 made the man a champion, the kind of efforts the made famous pundits like Martin Brundle label Ricciardo a “race burglar,” there were torrid moments like the 2018 season and an ill-fated car that often blew up in smokes mid race prompting one to use colourful language like “That Red Bull is smoking up like an old industrial chimney!”

In between this juggling between victories and defeats, there came moments where Riccciardo would’ve had his heart in this mouth. For instance, the 2016 drive at Monaco, where at the famous Principality, the-then Red Bull driver managed a P2 despite bagging pole position.

The redemption would come, but not before 2018, where despite facing gearbox problems, the brave Australian would collect thus far, his only win at the fashionable F1 hotspot.

Someone who partnered the nice-natured Nico Hulkenberg to resurrect Renault, now Alpine, and one who’d offer solidity and stability to the fiery Max Verstappen at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo is smiling temperance to the rabid and explosive surface that’s Formula 1.

The man behind audacious stunts such as the art of late braking, which drivers, whether in Europe’s picturesque roads or crowded Asian supermarkets vow to copy in a bid, often too flouncy, to become the next Daniel Ricciardo.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s easy to aim to be someone’s doppelganger, if only behind the wheels, but difficult to execute on-track bravery.

That’s precisely why someone like a Daniel Ricciardo can pull off a Monza 2017, where prior to the start of the race, the smiling Red Bull speedster said, “It (the race) has the makings to be a great one… let’s see if it works out.”

It did work out, only to see Ricciardo pulling off ostentatious moves at staunch corners like the Ascari Chicane where he’d pass both Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel, before notching up a brave P4 and setting the fastest lap of the race of the two Mercedes’ as well as the Ferraris.

Now, in 2021, even as the smile is there, if not in its most vivacious avatar, given he’s yet to tame the arduous McLaren challenge, there’s hope that one of F1’s most zesty characters will hold on bravely instead of floundering the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make something special with the iconic British outfit.

There are 10 races to go this year. And soon, it’s lights out and away we go. Go on Daniel, make it count.

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