Daniel Ricciardo In 2020: The Year That Also Belonged To The Honeybadger

Daniel Ricciardo In 2020: The Year That Also Belonged To The Honeybadger

Three things at best define Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 FORMULA 1 World Championship.

Paving back the great Renault fightback:

The last that Renault was ever seen hanging out in the top five on the Constructor Standings was back in 2010. Then, almost a decade back in time, the pairing of Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov ensured the collection of 163 strong points for the famous French constructor. That this season, the Cyril Abiteboul-led side returned back to a place of absolute respectability (as they bagged fifth on the constructor standings) was truly special; lest it is forgotten, also largely due to Daniel Ricciardo’s sensational drives.

Knocking the socks off his opponent:

In the same car with which the very talented Esteban Ocon collected a rather lowly P12 (courtesy 62 points), Daniel bagged nearly double of the noted French driver. 

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See the void. Picture the gap. 

Then imagine does it not take a better race craft to create opportunities and bag them, one race at a time?

Some simple introspection might even reveal what likens Daniel Ricciardo to racing is the very fact that he’s got it inherently in him; R for Racing. R for Ricciardo!

While some among us may even say the above is some ‘fanboy expression,’ in reality, however, it is anything but.

Ricciardo- no-one is saying is the greatest driver in the sport. But hey, making most of the opportunities presented is second nature to the man with the simple smile.

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Picture 2014.

The world title in FORMULA 1’s very new turbo-hybrid age belonged to the man who did, once again, ‘hammer’ the grid.

But who won, in his debut year with Red Bull, the battle with the teammates?

Where did Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion, finish vis-à-vis Daniel Ricciardo?

To refresh one’s memory, and that’s only because shades of the irrepressible Ricciardo- “I -see-an-opportunity-and-I-shall-go-for-it” DNA were visible even back then when in comparison to the German’s 167 points, Daniel stormed to 238.

And Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 was the driver driven to punch above his weight. Not because he’s a feather-light weight competitor; rather someone who’d go for the assault when there’s a chance.

That’s what he did at the Nurburgring; remember that battle with Perez? Who can ever forget that?

That’s what he gave a repeat performance of when at the Emilia Romagna region; another daunting if not entirely expected podium drive returned Renault a fighting P3.

At the qualifying, it mustn’t be forgotten, Daniel found himself a touch slower than both Perez and Verstappen in the final run. Not that on race-day, he wasn’t able to lunge ahead.

Next up, consider this.

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Renault was a quick car- but was it the only such machine in the packed midfield?

While to his credit, Daniel was always paired with one of Renault’s most improved and better machines in a long time, would the 119 points have happened minus superior race craft?

At the Nurburging- a track defined as desperately dangerous, one that still brings to mind the haunting sight of the great Niki Lauda’s crash (1976)- Daniel first tasted the champagne that had long eluded him.

Technically speaking, prior to his P3 at the daunting German

On the whole, Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 reads more an expression of superior will to succeed vis-à-vis not always favourable circumstances.

McLarens and Racing Points, lest it is forgotten, were faster cars.

How?

When competing on high speed circuits such as Monza, wherein he gathered a P6, others in pacier machines like the two McLarens finished ahead: Sainz with his brilliant P2 and Norris with P4.

Though at Spa, not the easiest track to race at, also the venue of his disappointing P14 with Renault the last year around, (2019), Daniel raced, not strolled to a fine P4. 

That being said, after a string of slow starts to the utterly Lewis and Mercedes-dominated season, it didn’t take long for the 

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Essentially speaking:

Daniel Ricciardo in 2020
Source: Sketch prepared by S.Rajnikanth for F1 Chronicle

Daniel came fifth in the season, bagged two podiums, 119 points! This was, Renault’s only podium since the 2011 Malaysian GP effort of the man dotingly called “Quick Nick” Nick Heidfeld (had bagged P6 in quali- 1:136:124).

What made Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 really special was, in essence, down to his never say die spirit, to which he stands as a pure embodiment. 

 How’s that?

  • Started the season with a DNF- can that not have been heartbreaking?
  • In three of the last four seasons at the very first race of the championship, Daniel failed to score a point at the curtain-raising event. Barring the P4 at the 2018 Aus GP, he scored a DNF at the very event the season before and ditto for the 2019 run. Not that 2020 changed a great deal for the smiling driver collected another heartbreaking race-retirement. The only thing that did change, however, was the venue of 2020’s curtain-raising race: it being the Austrian GP of 2020. 

But the greats- they never ever give up, do they? Look where the McLaren-bound driver gathered in the end?

Who would’ve thought, rather how easy might it have been to emerge inside the top five upon the completion of the championship, having gathered right at the start no points whatsoever?

And that’s the thing that separates the good drivers from the great ones, isn’t it? The latter continue to push relentlessly.

You know where to place the Perth-born smile of FORMULA 1, right?

Make no mistake. It’s not that the car Daniel Ricciardo was powered with in the 2020 FORMULA 1 season was a slacker. Heck, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Renault-E Tech 20 1.6 V6t was among the fastest midfielders on the grid. But then, so were machines the likes of Stroll and Perez, 

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In 14 of the 17 races held in 2020, Daniel finished inside the top 10. Impressive?

Wait, until you recollect what may only increase your regard for the smiling assassin on the racing turf.

Where it comes to securing top five finishes, Daniel Riccciardo in 2020 did more than what one would’ve expected from a midfielder, regardless of being a very competitive RS 20.

Of his seventeen runs, replete with heartbreaks, ecstatic drives whilst dangling with the unpredictable DNA of the sport- fourteen efforts culminated into top-ten results. 

More specifically, Daniel broke into the top five on seven in seventeen occasions, whilst dangling with qualifying results that weren’t always stellar. 

Think for a second as to how easy or tough might his job have been given the unpredictable DNA of the sport, and that too in a season where podiums were perhaps as common an expression as pandemic.

That said, mind you 2020 was again a year where the Mercs and the Red Bulls left little to the imagination, the Hamilton and Verstappen show anchoring the season.

Not an awful lot was anyways reserved for those playing catchup.

And that’s precisely where Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 was akin to a sniper enjoying a good day in the shooting field.

He knew the troika of Leclerc, Sainz, Perez, and on other occasions, Gasly include would counter his RS 20. 

Leclerc, despite all the troubles and hardships suffered at the hands of a car that was at times- hopeless, and on other, strangely receptive to his powers, gathered 21 points less than the Renault driver (Charles 98, 2 podiums) while Perez finished only 6 points ahead of Daniel but in a speedier machine.

Lesson?

The Honeybadger didn’t buckle under pressure. They don’t need the most ideal of circumstances to fire.

For the Honeybadger’s don’t relent. And little do they crib, seldom do they not own up to their errors. Daniel didn’t. Daniel doesn’t.

Somethings are never meant to be. 

But then to some bagging a solitary podium also wasn’t possible. That the most infectious smile of F1 was responsible for two, says it like no-one else does: Never say never in FORMULA 1! Right?

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