69. Daniel Ricciardo

Age 31
Occupation Driver, McLaren Racing
Nationality Australian
Position Last Year 72

Daniel Ricciardo is the self-styled “Honey Badger” who is fuzzy on the outside and feisty on the inside. Drivers beware because behind Ricciardo’s laidback persona and big grin is a razor-sharp racer with a bite.

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The Australian combines all-out speed with impressive racecraft. Never afraid to push to the limits if it means pulling off a pass, Ricciardo is a proven race-winner for Red Bull, capable of consistently finishing at the business end of the championship table.

Daniel Ricciardo’s motorsport journey began, like so many, glued to a television. In his case, this was often a late-night indulgence, watching Formula 1, NASCAR and all forms of motorsport at home in Perth, Western Australia. Bitten by the bug, he began karting aged nine and moved into Formula Ford at 15. Racing a car as old as he was, Daniel’s results were not spectacular, but he caught the eye and won a scholarship into the 2006 Formula BMW Asia series where, in his rookie season, he took two victories and a pole position, finishing the year in third place.

Daniel Ricciardo relocated to Europe, contesting Formula Renault 2.0 Italy in 2007. After a learning year, he won the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC title in 2008 and followed in the footsteps of many all-time greats by winning, in 2009, the British Formula 3 title. A few weeks later he made his F1 testing debut, topping the timesheets for Red Bull Racing in the Jerez young driver test.

This performance led to a test and reserve seat at Toro Rosso for 2010, which Daniel combined with a move up to Formula Renault 3.5. He narrowly missed out on the World Series title after impressive wins in Spain, Monaco, Germany and Hungary but was rewarded with regular FP1 appearances for Toro Rosso in the first half of 2011. Next came a loan to HRT for the second half of the season and an F1 race debut at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix.

Daniel transitioned smoothly into a race seat at Toro Rosso for 2012 and, in two years with the Italian squad, consistently punched above his weight, gaining a reputation as a demon qualifier, confident overtaker and a racer’s racer, who enjoyed the scrap as much as the result. He scored in 13 of his 39 races and was awarded the Trofeo Lorenzo Bandini in recognition of his efforts.

Daniel was promoted to the senior Red Bull Racing team for 2014. He took a debut F1 victory at the Canadian Grand Prix, followed by further wins in Hungary and Belgium to finish third in the Drivers’ Championship, and was awarded the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year.

He took his first pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix in 2016 and was denied victory by a slow pit stop. He went on to win the Malaysian Grand Prix later that year and once again finished third in the Drivers’ Championship. He added an unlikely Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory in 2017, and a remarkable early-season victory in China at the beginning of 2018. He then had the crowning moment of his career to date: winning the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix from pole position, despite driving half the race with a crippled car, down on power, losing gears and with failing brakes. Mid-season, he announced a move to Renault for 2019.

Daniel’s two seasons with Renault were comparatively fallow and yet, despite limited successes, he still managed to burnish his reputation as F1’s most clinical overtaker, with a penchant for a late-race charge. He signed off from Renault with a flourish, scoring podiums at the Nürburgring and Imola.

Daniel Ricciardo lives in Monaco but takes every opportunity to get back to the family farm in Western Australia – less for the farming and more for the space to play with his collection of dirt bikes and other off-roaders. Gregarious by nature, and not disposed to taking himself too seriously, Daniel has always been a firm favourite with fans, media and his teams – but when the visor comes down, the Honey Badger is a fierce competitor indeed.

And in 2021 he hopes a new chapter with the Mercedes-powered McLaren team might just change that. But whatever happens, Ricciardo is sure to keep on smiling. It was amazing to see Daniel winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix!

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