Why bother about the fear of losing when what matters most is the will to win?
It could be said, the last time Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren would have been mindful of the above way (a way of thinking, if one must say) was perhaps every single Grand Prix prior to taking the wheel of his McLaren on September 12, 2021.
It’s needless to even revisit the many occasions where it could be said, in no uncertain terms that Ricciardo looked lacklustre in that McLaren. Uncertain even.
Among the many episodes – and one’s not talking about the insipid qualifying form this year- where Daniel Ricciardo was found wanting was when Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. zoomed past his MCL 35 M at Baku with the ease with which a lion swats aside a hare from its path.
Though, it wasn’t that Ricciardo wasn’t trying. At Spain, where he outperformed teammate Lando Norris, no pocket rocket, in both qualifying and race showed glimpses of the Daniel Ricciardo we’ve come to admire and so very much like.
Fast, But Not Furious, And Not A Man With Many Foibles
Though what was lacking was the killer-instinct of the ‘Honeybadger,’ the marked difference that makes Ricciardo a one-of-a-kind talent.
A racer among drivers.
A hero about whom doubts and doubters, of course (who can ever deny them their place) had mushroomed at the back of a podium-less run in as many as thirteen back-to-back runs.
The significance of Ricciardo’s Monza triumph, it must be noted, only grows in that even after beginning from the front row, just behind his former teammate Max Verstappen, the man himself contended to being in a bit of the ‘dark side,’ since it wasn’t certain what might become of the car on race-day.
You know the drill.
Would it hold things together? What about the race-pace (quali battle is not even half the job done)? How would Max turn out, having known his blistering form this season?
There were plenty of questions that must have done ceaseless rounds not just in the minds of devoted fans but also in one of the more cerebral racers around.
And yet, cut to that moment that changed the complexion of the race.
Well, not every moment has to be or can be about the Verstappen versus Hamilton saga, even though the Monza incident that was no less dramatic than captain Sully landing the flight on Hudson. Great that all were saved. Scary that the incident even happened.
But the moment Ricciardo pushed the throttle, never receding for even a second from the idea of passing Verstappen, you knew something was right.
Something that hadn’t been, not in the least, for as many as thirteen consecutive races, marked by nothing much but pure agony.
But it’s only when we’ve confronted the darkest corners of the mind, as they say, can we finally find light.
For Daniel Joseph Ricciardo, that moment was inside the very first lap, after no more than, perhaps seven seconds.
That inside line. The holding on to it as if his life depended on it. And the error-free, unperturbed, ‘hard-as-nails’ overtake on the driver most sweat at the thought of competing against.. that was vintage Daniel Ricciardo.
That he didn’t take pole but led every single lap of the race unto the checkered flag made the victory even more beautiful and who knows, the taste of the champagne even bubblier?
That the “Shoey” took centre stage again made the often temperamental world of Formula 1 where egos run riot a more bearable, enjoyable, less-dramatic and happy sight.
Just like the man himself. Daniel Ricciardo, the master of late braking. The man who won, finally with McLaren. But then, better late than never!