Daniel Ricciardo and Lady luck: a relationship gone stale
Daniel Ricciardo. The first image a fan has of the Australian is a big, wide smile. He is the most cheerful person on the grid at any given point of time and anyone who disagrees... sorry, no one does. The very image of the man fills you with positivity but then his 2018 season stares at you in the face.
It has been so long ago since Ricciardo finished on the podium, 12 races to be exact, his win at Monaco seems a distant memory. In fact, it was his last podium finish this year. Even that victory came at a cost; the MGU-K on his car failed and only the narrow streets prevented a marauding Sebastian Vettel from going past.
His season started out decently as he finished fourth at his home race, behind the Ferraris and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. Bahrain was the first retirement for Ricciardo, where his engine shut off unexpectedly, much like his retirement at Austin. And then came the Chinese Grand Prix.
Ricciardo qualified sixth, the slowest of the top three teams but he trusted himself enough. An unexpected safety car allowed the Red Bulls to pit for fresh tyres while their competitors stayed out, and he then reeled off memorable passes on Hamilton, Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to take the best victory of his career.
These two races presented two contrasting directions for his season to go by. Unfortunately, it decided to take the former route and it has manifested itself into a disaster so far.
The next race in Baku saw the infamous clash with his teammate and the Monaco win was merely a smokescreen for what was to follow. However, the lowest point for him came in Austria, where his engine gave way despite running strongly on a day where his teammate won the race. To make matters worse, it was his birthday weekend.
This can be pinpointed as probably the final straw where Ricciardo drew the line and a couple of races later, in the mid-season break, he dropped the bomb of announcing his Renault move.
A lot of doubters cropped up, speaking ill of his decision to move to a slower team and alleging that Verstappen's stature in the team scared him away, but Ricciardo knew better. The way his races have gone since the break only justifies his move, with his car proving to be unusually unreliable.
His car has mostly suffered from engine failures, and while he shared retirement duties almost equally with his teammate last season, in 2018, Verstappen has definitely emerged the luckier candidate.
With three races left in what was supposed to be a memorable career with Red Bull, Ricciardo will be hoping for one final hurrah. Right now, even a podium finish will qualify as such for him.
A summary of Ricciardo's races since the US Grand Prix 2017:Modified 20 Dec 2019, 19:25 IST