Daniel Ricciardo is the leading figure in Renault’s Formula 1 project, in fact, he is returning to a rivalry that dates back to his arrival in Europe.
When we imagine Daniel Ricciardo’s greatest rivals, the names that come to mind are Max Verstappen, with whom he competed at Red Bull, and Sebastian Vettel, whom he could hope to snatch a place with Ferrari at the end of the 2020 season, maybe…
But the Australian’s response is quite different and finds its explanation in the moment Daniel Ricciardo arrived in Europe in his youth.
Asked on the Top Gear show about his greatest rivalry in Formula One, Daniel Ricciardo had a surprising answer, to say the least.
“I would say Bottas. We raced a lot together in the junior categories.
“I didn’t go karting in Europe, so I don’t really have a driver that I would have started racing with from the age of 10.
“But Bottas was there when I started racing in Europe, we were in the same championship.
“We competed, we grew up together and somewhere along the way we always had, I suppose, a form of rivalry,” said the Renault driver.
During his junior formula in Europe, the young Australian was taken on by Red Bull in 2007 and made a breakthrough in 2008 with SG Racing (with Red Bull backing), competing in Formula Renault 2.0.
Ricciardo went toe-to-toe with fellow future F1 star Valtteri Bottas in a scintillating season-long Eurocup battle.
Ricciardo scored the most wins but it was Bottas who edged the title by a three points. However Ricciardo had the beating of his rival in this celebrated battle between the pair at Silverstone. You can watch that amazing battle below, I strongly recommend you do so.
Ricciardo named that battle as his greatest moment in motor racing so far. “It gave me a real adrenaline rush,” and has obviously lingered since – to this day he reports that Bottas was his greatest rival.
Several years of competition followed in F3, Formula Renault 3.5 (V8) and ultimately a chance to test with Red Bull Racing at the end of 2009. Then in 2010, he caused a stir by testing again for Red Bull by smashing Sebastian Vettel’s pole time by over a second at Yas Marina.
A reserve driver for Toro Rosso in 2010, and almost matched the pace of the team’s regular driver Sebastien Buemi. He went one better on a later outing in Turkey, lapping slightly faster than Buemi.
Ricciardo began his F1 career proper with the struggling HRT team in 2011 after Red Bull deemed it necessary for the Australian to have a full time race seat.
Just three years later he was driving for the reigning world champions Red Bull Racing, and claimed a trio of victories in 2014. The youngster was actually within touching distance of the Championship throughout a good portion of the Mercedes dominated season that year.
Any hope of building on that 2014 success was hindered as the relationship between Red Bull and Renault visibly deteriorated during 2015. It was only on F1’s tighter circuits, where engine power was less of a premium, when the team fought for podium finishes.
From 2016 and the arrival of Max Verstappen, Ricciardo battled for dominance in the Red Bull team against the Dutchman, exchanging podiums and victories (with a few smashes too), all the way to the end of 2018. For 2019 Ricciardo finally left the Red Bull family and joined a struggling works Renault team.
And the rest, as they say, is history.