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While Formula One racing is an intensely exciting, death-defying sport, undertaken by supremely fit human beings with super-human reflexes, strangely the drivers can be a bit dull - with the notable exception of Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Previous F1 world champions have included the monosyllabic Finn, Mika Häkkinen, the robotically ruthless German, Michael Schumacher, and a deathly dull Brit, Damon Hill.
It sometimes seems that a laser-like focus on being the best in the world at something so demanding and dangerous saps all personality, but Ricciardo is the exceptional racer who disproves the rule.
While you might sometimes think that the Aussie larrikin - always smiling, never taking things too seriously, determined to enjoy every moment and willing, even overly willing, to speak their minds - is a dead concept, Perth-born Ricciardo, 31, has put that Crocodile Dundee/Adam Gilchrist persona back on centre stage.
Already a big star in the world of motor racing, where his late-braking and crazy overtaking manoeuvres have earned him the nickname of Dan Dare - Ricciardo’s fame shot into the stratosphere with the launch of Netflix’s highly watchable and globally popular documentary series - Drive to Survive.
The first season, in 2019, focused strongly on his move from champion team Red Bull to the smaller and less-successful Renault squad, and featured plenty of frank and funny banter from the laconic Aussie - who often seemed to be the only one who looks happy to be starring in the F1 circus. But in the second season he really caused a stir when the show aired a scene in which he said: “Netflix are a real bunch of ****s aren’t they? I’d love them to play that.”
The show’s producers tweeted the clip at him, with the line: “Your move”, to which he replied: “Where I’m from this basically means you’re ok and I’m happy to spend more time with you.”
Ricciardo has acknowledged the huge boost the Netflix show has given not only to him but the sport of F1 in general.
“I spend a bit of time in the States, and up until a year ago, not really anyone would say ‘Hi’ to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me for being an F1 driver,” he reports.
“And now it’s all: ‘We saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive.’ We wear helmets, so not many people can see our faces a lot of the time. Putting a face to a name, that helped.”
The show has also helped a great deal with the perception that F1 isn’t, somehow, a proper sport, with all its slim-hipped, jockey-sized racers. The fact is, it is one of the world’s most physically demanding pursuits, with drivers going wheel-to wheel at 300km/h plus, risking their lives, while being constantly crushed and battered in their cars by forces of up to 6g. Truly, they are ground-bound fighter pilots.
“People are like, ‘Why do you need to be fit? We drive to work every day, you’re just driving faster,” Ricciardo grins.
“But yeah, sure, driving is easy. Formula 1 is certainly one of a few sports in the world that only 20 people at a time can relate to what we go through.
“Racing is a real sport, with very real risks.”
Unfortunately, RIcciardo is yet to achieve the kind of recognition that being a world champion - which would make him Australia’s first since Alan Jones in 1980 - would bring.
He does, however, have seven wins and 31 podiums under his belt, which is a record any driver would be happy with, not to mention a net worth of $68 million.
Not a bad return for the first racing driver ever to make it to the top from humble Western Australia.
He fell in love with go-karting at age seven, describing speed as a feeling of freedom and being in total control, and his career, backed by his doting parents, both financially and emotionally, bloomed from there.
At age 17, after finding school boring, he moved to Europe full time to throw himself into the sport. Through a mix of ferocious dedication and inherent skill, he finally made it to a seat with one of the smaller teams in F1, Torro Rosso, in 2011, before being promoted to the hugely successful Red Bull team in 2014.
In a staggering top-flight debut season, he managed to finish third overall, with three wins, but Red Bull’s successful run was coming to an end, as Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton, rose to a period of hegemonic dominance.
He moved to a smaller, hungrier team in Renault for 2019 and 2020, and he has now signed up to race for McLaren, a once-great name that is on the rise to competing at the pointy end again, in 2021.
His hunger for success, even after almost a decade in the sport, is as high as ever. “And when I say success, it’s to win and to prove that I can do this. I really believe I’m the best. I want to prove that I can be World Champion,” he says.
If it does happen, it would be wise to be watching, because his victory celebrations - which include drinking champagne out of his racing boots, a move now called “a shoey” - are something to behold.
Whatever happens, though, you can bet the rest of his career, and his media appearances, will not be dull. Ricciardo’s approach clearly makes him stand out in the sport of F1. Here’s hoping he can stand at the very summit, soon.
If you’ve got any other questions about Daniel Ricciardo, we’ve got the answers right here:
How old is Daniel Ricciardo? 31
Where was Daniel Ricciardo born? Perth, Australia
where does Daniel Ricciardo live? Monaco
How much does Daniel Ricciardo weigh? 65kg
Who are Daniel Ricciardo's parents? Grace and Joe Ricciardo
Does Daniel Ricciardo have any siblings? A sister, Michelle
What is Daniel Ricciardo's net worth? $68 million.
Is Daniel Ricciardo religious? Catholic
Where did Daniel Ricciardo drive before he made it into F1? Raced in lower categories
Which Formula 1 team does Daniel Ricciardo drive for? Renault in 2020, McLaren in 2021
What is Daniel Ricciardo's best result in a Formula One championship? Third
Has Daniel Ricciardo had any big crashes in his career? Yes, most notably in Baku in 2018 with Max Verstappen
Does Daniel Ricciardo have a wife? No
Who has Daniel Ricciardo previously dated? He broke up with his long-term girlfriend Jemma Boskovich in 2016, since rumoured to have been dating model Jessica Gomes
Does Daniel Ricciardo have kids? No
What are Daniel Ricciardo's best quotes? "I'm in this sport to win but win by being the best, not by being lucky." and “Holy Testicle Tuesday!”
Does Daniel Ricciardo wear glasses? No
Does Daniel Ricciardo have a tattoo? Yes, lots
Has Daniel Ricciardo written any books? No, but he has had a biography written about him, Daniel Ricciardo: In Pursuit of Greatness, by Nate Saunders
Is Daniel Ricciardo on Social Media? Yes