Daniel Ricciardo's F1 future is one of the biggest talking points of the season right now. The Australian has been bumped out of McLaren by Oscar Piastri and he finds himself in a situation where his future in the sport seems uncertain.
New-age F1 fans might not hold Ricciardo in high regard because of the way the last two seasons have gone. He has been all over the place in a car that is not suited to his driving style. Try as he might, he has not succeeded in taming the McLaren and making it work for him.
Having said that, Daniel Ricciardo is an elite-level F1 talent. In a career that has lasted for more than a decade, there is enough evidence to prove that he belongs to the F1 elite in terms of talent. Does he currently find his confidence at an all-time low? Does he look like a shadow of himself at McLaren? Yes and yes!
Regardless, there was a time when Daniel Ricciardo would pull things off in an F1 car that not many thought was possible. Whether we see him ending his career at the end of the season or not is a question we don't have an answer to. What we do know is that the Australian is an elite-level talent. In this piece, we will take a look at five races that prove Daniel Ricciardo is a great driver.
5 moments that defined Daniel Ricciardo's brilliance
#1 2017 F1 Azerbaijan GP
Arguably one of F1's iconic moments was Daniel Ricciardo overtaking three cars at once in the 2017 F1 Azerbaijan GP. If there is any race that proves he was one of the best drivers on the grid at one point in time, then it has to be this.
The Australian was in a race of his own after incurring a pre-race grid penalty. His race was further compromised when he was forced to pit early as his radiator collected some debris. From that point onward, Ricciardo started slithering up the grid. Although he was destined for points, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel encountering issues, Ricciardo made the most of it.
At a crucial juncture in the race, the Australian jumped three drivers – Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, and Lance Stroll – to take the race lead. From that point on, he pulled away and secured one of the unlikeliest wins in F1.
#2 2014 F1 Hungarian GP
You have new technical regulations in place. There is mixed weather in play as the race starts under the safety car. What one tends to expect is seasoned veterans like Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and Jenson Button to shine.
While these veterans undoubtedly shined, they were outshone by this young Australian driver who picked them off one by one. Daniel Ricciardo, in a rain-affected F1 Hungarian GP, would beat the likes of Hamilton, Alonso, and Vettel.
Some F1 pundits doubted Ricciardo at this point in his career. Not after this race, as the Australian became a star with his fan-friendly driving style of pulling off overtakes when no one expected it.
#3 2018 F1 Chinese GP
The 2018 F1 season was when Max Verstappen was starting to mature. He began to hold some advantage over Daniel Ricciardo and everyone noticed just how good the Dutch driver was. At the F1 Chinese GP, the Australian flipped the script.
Following a late race safety car, both Red Bull drivers pitted and came out on fresh soft tires, catching up with the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers in front. Verstappen, ahead of Ricciardo at this stage, was in the hot seat to overtake the drivers up front to win the race.
The Dutchman, however, had not tamed his talents yet and was quite impetuous. Verstappen, in his eagerness to jump Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, had multiple contacts with the drivers.
This gave Ricciardo a clear path through as he took full advantage of the fresh soft tires and pulled off some spectacular moves on Vettel, Hamilton, and Valtteri Bottas to win the race.
#4 2021 F1 Italian GP
Daniel Ricciardo's journey at McLaren has been a painful one. It all, however, felt right during the 2021 F1 Italian GP. On a grid that had stalwarts like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Mercedes and Red Bull, McLaren were never expected to challenge for a win.
With Ricciardo starting on the front row, however, there were a few who dreamed it was possible. The Australian, struggling to get a hold of his McLaren all year, had a car under him the way he wanted. As a result, he was his old confident self for that one day.
Ricciardo nailed the start and got the jump on Max Verstappen. With McLaren's superior top speed, Red Bull could not find a way through. Once Hamilton and Verstappen crashed out in the first round of pitstops, the race win was there for the taking. Ricciardo maintained his advantage and brought the car home for a historic first win for McLaren in almost a decade. Even in a car that he was uncomfortable in, the Australian was still able to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
#5 2018 F1 Monaco GP
A lot has been written about Lewis Hamilton's defensive drive at the 2019 F1 Monaco GP. The Mercedes driver was able to hold off a charging Max Verstappen behind him in the second part of the race. Honestly, though, that defensive work does not hold a candle in front of what Daniel Ricciardo had achieved a year prior.
Daniel Ricciardo had suffered an MGU-K failure while leading the race. As a result, the driver lost not just tenths but seconds of lap time. What followed was a careful strategic drive from the Australian as he placed the car on all the right pieces of the tarmac and did not even give the pursuing pack of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton any chance. Having been robbed of a win at the same track in 2016, this was redemption for Ricciardo as he picked up a win at the Principality.