After a long hiatus, we’re back with the latest installment examining how the stars and future stars of Formula 1 found their way into their seats in the preeminent division of motorsport.
This week we tackle Daniel Ricciardo. The #1 driver at Red Bull and the #1 driver in the hearts of many F1 fans. How did he get there?
Danny Ric was born in 1989 in the western Australian city of Perth to his Italian emigrant dad (is Ferrari in Ricciardo’s future?). Ricciardo didn’t even set foot in a kart until he was nine, which means there is still time for some of you new readers (thank your teachers for making this assigned reading before you head off to the track).
Now there is nothing near Perth except kangaroos, so Daniel’s first competition was very local and the talent pool was limited. He stayed very local for a while. A long while. Daniel had graduated from karting to cars by 2005, but he was still in Western Australia! At that time he was in the Formula Ford Championship where he put in a respectable, but not spectacular showing.
But the scouts blamed most of the lackluster showing on Danny Ric’s noncompetitive car and the next year he received a scholarship to join the BMW Asia Championship. Finally, he’d made it out of Western Australia! In his first season he nabbed two wins, 10 podiums and finished third overall. All at age 15. Ricciardo had arrived.
He moved through the feeder ranks. In 2007 and 2008, Ricciardo graduated to Formula Renault and raced in Europe. This is where he became a member of the Red Bull junior team. He moved to Great Britain and F3 in 2009 and finally got an F1 ride partway through the 2011 with the now defunct Hispania Racing Team. In 2012 and 2013, he graduated to the Red Bull “junior team,” Scuderia Toro Rosso. When Mark Webber retired after 2013, Danny Ric got the call up to Red Bull, where he can be found today.
Ricciardo is admired by the other drivers in the paddock. During his first season at Red Bull, none other than the legend Fernando Alonso said of Danny Ric: “He is unbelievable! He is very, very smart and very respectful.”
Daniel Ricciardo has provided some much needed hope for parents and young aspiring drivers alike: nine years old is not too old to get behind the wheel for the first time. But until we find someone who started later, use that as your outside benchmark.