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Adam Novosad
July 25, 2021, 10:59pm
Reading time: 8:48

Daniel Ricciardo is Choosing the Path to Becoming a World Champion Over 25 Million Salary. His Magical Smile Will Get Him Places.

The Australian pilot had the best times in Red Bull, but he gave up that fabulous salary in Renault to finally join McLaren. He might be worried right now, but with his magical smile, he won't be dropping out from F1 anytime soon.

Adam Novosad
July 25, 2021, 10:59pm
Reading time: 8:48
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Oil, smell of gasoline, engines roaring and extravagant drivers. Formula 1 is no longer about these things. Nowadays, the engines are quieter, and you're more likely to smell petrol fumes at a gas station. Fortunately there are plenty extravagant drivers left on the starting line of the most prestigious motor competitions in the world.


Ever since the end of 2016, when Liberty Media bought Formula 1 for more than $ 4.4 billion, the popularity of this motorsport skyrocketed, due to better marketing, social networks, and Netflix's Drive to Survive phenomenon.


Thanks to these factors, Daniel Ricciardo, is able to smile at his fans at every race. We have talked about him with the host of Sport2 and iconic character in Slovak Formula 1, Števo Eisele.


In this article you'll read:
  • Why Daniel Ricciardo didn't keep the original Italian pronunciation of his name.
  • How did he, as a newcomer, train compete on the track with champion Sebastian Vettel.
  • Why did he usually finish last in his first season in F1.
  • How he was the only one in the whole season who was able to beat Mercedes.
  • How superb ambitions became a tragedy for Max Verstappen.
  • How Ricciardo became a popular meme thanks to Hulkenberg.
  • Why he changed his seat at Red Bull for a luxurious salary of 25 million EUR yearly.
  • Why he threw away 25 million euros and took half the salary instead.
  • What Števo Eisele thinks about Ricciardo's future in McLaren.
    Source: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo



The likeable Australian is one of the pillars of the starting lineup, which he became an integral part of in 2011. Although at that time no one expected Ricciardo to become one of the icons of todays Formula 1.


We chose him as the first driver whose story we'll be diving into, since the series Drive to Survive not only brought millions of fans to the TV screens, but also thousands of curious people from all over the world that are new to F1.


And who better to introduce than Ricciardo, who might not be a seven-time world champion like Lewis Hamilton, who doesn't fight for a title like Max Verstappen, but rather worries about moving to McLaren. However, his experience, wide smile and humor always rescue him at all times.


Not Richiardo, but RicciardoLike most drivers, young Ricciardo began his career on go-karts. However, Australians have a slight disadvantage compared to Europe-born drivers, because the most prestigious events take place on the old continent, even in the youth category. That's why Ricciardo tried to get into the world of European motorsport as soon as possible after switching from go-karts.


By the way, Ricciardo's origin and name has always been getting a lot of attention, since it sounds everything but Australian. Ricciardo really comes from a mixed Italian-Australian background, and so right after his entry into Formula 1, he faced an epidemic of humorous mispronunciations of his name. Although "Ricciardo" should be correct in Italian, the Australian driver chose the pronunciation that accompanied his childhood at home with his opponents, thus using the form "Ricchiardo".


From Australian go-karts, he gradually switched through several junior formula categories, which usually serve as a hypothetical talent pool. From 2005 to 2008, Ricciardo switched through categories such as Formula BMW in the United Kingdom and Asia, and also Formula Renault, mainly in Europe.


He competed in multiple youth formula competitions until 2011. Then he got the opportunity during Formula Renault 3.5 Series, the competition most reminiscent of the most prestigious Formula 1, to join the highest category of motorsport. Formula 1.


Source: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo


Defeating the four-time world champion by an entire second

The young and driven Australian began to attract more and more attention in 2008 and 2009, when he first won the championship titles. First in Formula Renault 2.0 WEC category, which was actually the british format of British Formula 3. This success has launched his journey towards Formula 1. Also thanks to his affiliation with Red Bull, the brand that bought two teams in F1 and set out on the path of world dominance.


Ricciardo accepted the offer from the ambitious brand. However, even though he tested in the post season tests for the main Red Bull Racing team in 2009, as a young man, his future was linked to the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for the next few years. Red Bull usually tested potential pilots here.


The Australian has charmed the public at all of the tests he had ever participated in in the F1 as a young man. The result from the post-season tests in 2010 say it all. Ricciardo re-entered Red Bull Racing and drove the fastest round of the entire test, beating the qualifying time of his future teammate Sebastian Vettel by more than a second.


Before the 2011 season, Red Bull executives and Toro Rosso, led by Christian Horner and Franz Tost, understood that Ricciardo needed to be given a chance. In the worst case scenario, he could ditch the Red Bull Academy altogether and turn to competitors.



Taking over after another Australian

The test and backup driver for Toro Rosso thus became the pilot of the HRT team in the middle of the 2011 season. Ricciardo left the remaining races for HRT, but it was more of a pain than a ride. The ambitious Australian had speed, but his car was one of the worst on the grid. Fortunately, in terms of results, no one had high expectations of Ricciardo. The actual test by fire was in the 2012 season, when he entered Toro Rosso as the main driver.


He spent two seasons alongside the more experienced French pilot Jean-Éric Vergne in the sister team of Red Bull Racing, who will definitely won't be nostalgically reminiscing on the time spent next to Ricciardo between 2012 and 2013.


In the 2012 season Ricciardo was proving himself as a full-fledged Formula 1 driver. Year later, he left his teammate in an illusive cloud of dust and ended the season with an overwhelming advantage in qualifying, scoring more points in the overall standings than Vergne.


The road to Red Bull could only be open to one of them, and Vergne did not reach the coveted highest step in the brand's hierarchy. Quite festively, Ricciardo was given a chance  to take over the Australian relay team from Mark Webber, who was retiring, in 2014.


Source: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo


The only winner aside from Mercedes

The year 2014 can be described as a sensational year in Ricciardo's career. Red Bull did not build the best car on the track, because Mercedes was best at hopping right into the new hybrid turboera. Ricciardo secured third place in the overall rankings, right after both Mercedes drivers.


His teammate and four-time world champion (at the time) Sebastian Vettel finished fifth in the overall rankings, making Daniel Ricciardo a hot mega-star. Fans may have begun to expect a potential championship title for him as Vettel's successor.


In the 2014 season, Ricciardo proved that he can also stir things up with dominant Mercedes by using his famously late braking technique. He won in Canada, Hungary and Belgium. The fact that he was the only winner of the Formula 1 Grand Prix this year, apart from the two Mercedes drivers, should speak for itself.


We were curious whether Ricciardo had a real chance at that time to aim for the championship title in the upcoming seasons, so we turned to the most popular Formula 1 expert in Slovakia and Sport2 television commentator Števo Eisele. "In F1, you need two more ingredients that are extremely valuable. Racing car and circumstances. Well, and right at the moment when the coveted Verstappen came to Red Bull, Ricciardo's fate in the team was basically sealed, " says the commentator.



Ricciardo did not become partners with the young Max Verstappen until 2016, when the Russian torpedo Daniel Kvyat dropped out of Red Bull. Despite the strong season in which he won in Malaysia, he had to respect Red Bull's plans for Verstappen.


The team wanted to make him the youngest world champion in the history of Formula 1, so Ricciardo gradually became secondary, which eventually drove him out of the team. In 2017 and 2018, he scored a few more victories to his resume. The most legendary was definitely the 2018 season in Monaco. In the meantime, the Australian had to scramble for lost motivation, so he decided to make a change in his workplace.


From second best to 25 million a year

Ricciardo started the 2019 season in the cockpit of a Renault race car. An unexpected change has brought him from Red Bull, which has been one of the three best teams on the starting grid for the longest time, to Renault, where they persuaded him with their vision of the future and a fat check, of course. The Australian received an offer that can not be refused, and although the numbers vary according to different sources, he seems to have made € 25 million over the 2019 and 2020 seasons .


Although Renault's ambitious project sounded good, it could only be fulfilled in the upcoming years, so it was clear that money had also played a big role in Ricciardo's decision.


When we asked Števo Eisele if, according to him, Ricciardo realized that he would most likely not fight for the F1 title anymore after arriving in Renault, he answered us with a counter-question. Because meanwhile Ricciardo transferred from Renault, where he was pretty much struggling for two seasons, even though he collected a handful of rankings, he preferred to move to McLaren, where the title ambitions took on more realistic contour nevertheless.


Source: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo


"New rules might unexpectedly stir the rankings up in the upcoming season... And let's not forget that Ricciardo hasn't fought for the title during his F1 career. I think that the next season will be a key crossroads for his career, "  Eisele explains.


Formula 1 has just introduced a new concept of cars for the next year, which promises a much closer race than before. Ricciardo comes across as a well-located driver in McLaren, since the British team systematically works to improve its racing cars and certainly doesn't neglect the development.


Cutting the 25 million income in half, the goal remains to be a championAlthough someone could blame Ricciardo's choice of Renault being driven by the money rather than his masterful ambitions, moving to McLaren in the 2021 season reverses those thoughts. According to information that's available at the moment, the Australian earns significantly less in McLaren than in Renault. The numbers vary, but his salary is allegedly reduced from 25 to 10 million EUR.


The joker with a magical smile is not experiencing the best season so far. In the first few races, he was getting used to the car, so he didn't dare to push beyond the limit, which was a habit in the past. He also didn't brake as late and as sharply like he did in his Red Bull era. The problems appeared especially in the Austrian double races, where Ricciardo didn't have speed a few weeks ago. In the meantime, his teammate Lando Norris attacked the podium position.


We therefore asked Števo Eisele about Ricciardo's fluctuating form. "I'm also very surprised, but it's another reminder of the incredible complexity of the F1 itself. Ricciardo simply wasn't feeling this year's McLaren car. They say that F1 is about the magical two tenths that separate the champion from an average driver. Two tenths! ” states the commentator.


"And suddenly you come to a whole new team and find out for yourself that you don't like the type of brakes, the suspension of the car, that you can't brake so effectively without destroying your tires. For us ordinary mortals, riding looks too easy through the onboard perspective, but in the fight for the magical two tenths, it's nearly like cosmic science, " says Eisele, who watches Ricciardo closely every race weekend.


Source: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo


Ricciardo is not going anywhere, he's a key investment

Despite the hardships behind the McLaren wheel so far, Ricciardo is most likely not going anywhere. Whether that's voluntarily or involuntarily. In the British team, they formed a Norris - Ricciardo duo, which entertains the spectators on and off the track, so for now McLaren is coming across as a patient team waiting for Ricciardo to fully adapt to the racing car.


At the moment, Števo Eisele has no doubt about the future of the Australian in McLaren. According to him, we'll be seeing him at least for the next few seasons. Although he is 32 years old, he definitely isn't rusty yet.


"I believe that Daniel will improve, although the pressure on him is increasing. After all, McLaren hired him as a key investment. But we need to highlight the famous Lando, who's in his best form as a driver. When it comes to Daniel, I'm not worried about his future. He's definitely one of the strongest in terms of marketing, so we'll definitely be looking at his perfect smile for a few more years to come, ” concludes the Sport2 commentator.



When it comes to Ricciardo as the phenomenal marketing force of Formula 1, no superlatives can be too exaggerated. Ricciardo is known for his sense of humor, which he's not afraid to express in public. Moments like Ricciardo's humorous attempt to pronounce the name of teammate Nico Hulkenberg a.k.a. Huuuuulkenbeeeer or the moment he was shouting Pierre Gasly's name during a TV interview have been heavily popularized among motorsport fans.


Honey badger, Ricciardo's nickname, may consider the current season as lost. But if everything turns out the way he imagines, next season he could really fight for the championship title in McLaren for the first time. And the F1 fans would definitely love to see a wide Australian toothpaste commercial smile more than the long face from the current season.

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Thumbnail: Instagram/Daniel Ricciardo
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