After five seasons and precisely 100 races, Daniel has hung up the famous blue overalls and is heading off to pastures new for 2019.
At Yas Marina, Daniel quite literally got to drive off into the sunset – but as is to be expected these days, there’s a post-credits scene for those who just can’t quite get enough of Formula One. The coda to Daniel’s 12 seasons in the Red Bull family comes tomorrow, when he’ll be touring the factory and catching up with old friends.
Bizarrely, Daniel has had less of a presence at the factory since he started driving for the team in 2014. As a fresh-faced teenager, competing in (and winning) the British F3 Championship, he was a regular ‘factory support’ driver, pedalling the simulator at all hours of the day, in coordination with the team at the track, trying out different set-up options to extract that last tenth from the RB5 and RB6. He lived in Milton Keynes throughout this stint, and right through his tenures as our reserve driver and subsequent spells at Hispania and Toro Rosso. It’s only when he finally – and inevitably – got promotion to the senior team that he couldn’t resist the lure of sunshine anymore and moved to Monaco.
Before his factory sign-off, we sat down to ask a few questions about his 2018 campaign, a season he describes as ‘a rollercoaster’. He added a sixth and seventh F1 victory to his haul – both with trademark drama – but also had a quite appalling run of bad luck with mechanical reliability. Here’s what he had to say.
Daniel, in the run-up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, you were quite the star of social media and had some fun with our hashtags – what’s your reaction to the response that generated?
Ah, y’know, boredom struck! It’s been cool. I was having some fun with the hashtags, just being an idiot. But the reaction has been awesome. The one which stuck in my mind was a video of a young girl doing a shoey on the hundredth day after she had a bone marrow transplant. That made a big impact.
The Honey Badger on the back of your lid grew some wings for his trip to Yas Marina. What was that all about?
Of course, the wings are significant for Red Bull but also for my departure. I thought it would be a nice little gesture. And Honey Badger, he’s sipping some Red Bull and basically saying cheers for the memories.
Looking back on this season, has it been one of the hardest of your career?
One hundred per cent yes. Absolutely. Even purely on the results, but then with everything else on top of that. There’s the contract stuff, the high of Monaco, the low of the DNFs – it’s been by far the most intense and challenging season I’ve ever experienced. Mentally it’s tested me, but I feel it’s only going to make me stronger down the track.
Some wonderful memories though. Reflecting on that win in China, would you describe it as the ultimate team victory?
That weekend, I think it sums up the rollercoaster the year as been. All the highs and lows, frustration and joy rolled into one. I remember on the podium on Sunday I was holding in a lot of my emotion because it just plays with you. It does. But then, to come out of that weekend, I wasn’t just proud of what I’d achieved, I was very proud of the team and proud of everyone who helped me get to that point on Sunday afternoon. Also, I heard that the move to take the lead of the race was voted overtake of the year, or something like that. So that’s pretty cool. Big weekend for sure.
There’s been plenty said already on that Monaco victory, how does it compare to watching your team win the Aussie Rules Grand Final?
Oh wow! They were both pretty high. That’s the crazy thing this year. As challenging and as low as it’s been at times, I’ve also had the biggest highs and the most special moments in my life. Monaco was huge. The biggest thing with Monaco was what happened afterwards. I was waking up in the middle of the night, padding to the bathroom, looking in the mirror and saying ‘It really happened’. But the Eagles winning, yeah, don’t get me wrong, as challenging as it’s been, there’s also been some incredible moments in 2018.
Will this be your last visit to the factory?
Not quite. This week there’s a post-race debrief as usual, and I imagine I’ll get dragged in by you guys to do a few things as well! Then I’ll see everyone at the factory. After that I’ll be back for the Christmas Party, just to make sure I end things on a high note. And then it’s Au Revoir!
We’ve got a dozen years of Daniel Ricciardo imagery in the archive. Obviously, we’re going to be putting together a few videos over the coming weeks. Are you worried about what we’re going to dig up? There’s been some pretty serious hair under that helmet in the past…
Absolutely! I’m sure there’s some pretty bad stuff in there. Fortunately, like the Honey Badger, I don’t give a shit! I’m not the kid that gets embarrassed. Over the years I’ve built up a relatively thick skin. There’s probably videos of me farting and doing all sorts of things but I’m just showing the world I’m only human.
And lastly, what’s your plan for the holidays? Heading back to Aussie summer?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m always excited to go home. I love home and I love the summer but I think this year more than any other year, it’ll be so nice to get home and to switch off. I’ll get out of the city and go to the farm and do nothing for a few days. I don’t think I’m going to tell any of my mates when I get home: I think I want just like three or four days with myself. After this year, what I want most of all is to just chill out for a bit!