When Daniel Ricciardo gathered his best-ever finish at the British Grand Prix, courtesy a fighting third in 2014 (with Red Bull), Fernando Alonso was still racing, Lando Norris and George Russell hadn’t arrived in the sport, Nico Rosberg was yet to win his famous world championship, and Kimi Raikkonen hadn’t quite perfected his ‘Bwoah!’
But a week ago, when the famous ‘honeybadger’ of the sport stormed in his RS 20 to fourth on the grid, which was just behind the Hamilton, Verstappen, and Charles in that order, you realized the prowess of the man who is not called the master of late-braking for anything.
Having begun the first of Silverstone’s challenging double-header from eighth on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo was a man on a mission, and right from the start wherein inside lap 1, he passed both Lance Stroll’s Racing Point RP 20 and Lando Norris’ MCL 35.
Fast at the Wellington and Hanger straights and cool and calculated at the high-speed corners, despite not battling with the quickest car or one that would give the competitive 2020 midfield goosebumps, Daniel Ricciardo was focus and intensity personified.
Something with which he’s stormed to seven princely triumphs in the past, one of the most grueling ones include the 2018 majestic drive at the famous Principality where the ‘smile of Formula 1‘ currently resides. Something with which he can drive away to a fantastic finish this coming Sunday, after demonstrating unbent speed, going third-fastest on Friday’s free practice.
“In the morning we did quite a bit of data gathering so we knew it wasn’t going to be totally representative. For the afternoon, we had a bit of a warm-up, made a change to the car, which worked, and it felt great. We had a good run on the Hard and then on the Soft as well. On that Soft run, we still missed out a bit in some areas, so there’s definitely more there. Our long runs also looked decent, so that’s a good base for Sunday. I think the wind direction is changing tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens there. Overall, it’s been a good day for us,” said Ricciardo at the conclusion of the first day at Silverstone.
But one must contend with a fact: while surely, last weekend’s drive wasn’t quite the suspenseful and on-the-edge experience that Daniel Ricciardo experienced two years back as despite stuck with a gearbox challenge, he’d go onto convert the pole into the win (at Monaco), it must be maintained, crossing the checkered flag by keeping the McLarens, Racing Points, and Alpha Tauri’s may not have been the easiest of things to do.
And it is for the Australian’s quiet resolve and fighting spirit that Renault have suddenly started enjoying the fierce battle in the midst of the grid with Racing Point and McLaren, the very teams in front of whose race-pace the RS 20 seemed a bit underwhelming at the start of the season?
Minute by minute, lap after lap, and weekend after weekend, the way Daniel has turned around a corner- with due respect to the others on the grid- is perhaps 2020’s most utterly under-represented tale, one that beckons us to refresh our memories to recollect that the same driver that bought Renault’s best finish of the year recently began his season with a disppointing DNF at Austria.
But did you remember?
From that point on, after having been out-qualified and later, out-placed for points by Frenchman Esteban Ocon (in the season-opener), that Daniel Ricciardo has gone to register – P8 at Austria (starting ninth), P8 at Hungary (qualified eleventh), and P4 at Silverstone (qualified eighth) suggests the formidable form of the Australian.
And it’s in lines with this unmatched consistency that the die-hard fan is wondering whether for that great attribute to pushing the car to the very edge and for not sitting quietly without extracting the very best the machine has to offer- a method aced by none other than Fernando Alonso (time and again)- do we have amid us the sport’s smiling warrior?
The one who doesn’t yield without a fight, the one who on current form seems the fastest man on the track outside the fighting troika of Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen, maybe in that order?
Come the qualifying day and much of our thoughts would, as usual, be with whether anyone can outperform the two Mercedes, or if not, then what might Hamilton and Bottas do to give Mercedes yet more thrills in what’s been a fascinating season so far.
But one man will be keen to outperform most others, who knows, even Max, should he be able to place the Renault right on the tail of the bullish RB 16.
You know the name, you are familiar with the smile! Go for it, Dan Ric!