Inspired by the beautiful piece you wrote up for The Players Tribune I decided to base my next article for Drivetribe on you’re career at Red Bull and a thought on what could be to come for you’re future at Renault, but instead of an ordinary one I decided to write a first person open letter. I cannot simply sign off in my name as I’ve thought about this piece all day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this letter is a reflection on you by not only me, but from your many global fans across the world.
Now, before we indulge into anything major I must admit that prior to you joining Red Bull Racing in 2014, I never really paid attention to who you were. Sure I remember when you made your debut with HRT in 2011 at the British Grand Prix (The first year Silverstone ran their new, and current layout) and when you joined Toro Rosso in 2012. When you were called up to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014, I honestly didn’t expect much. You were going against Sebastian Vettel, then four time World Champion, surely you wouldn’t dethrone the mighty German so to speak? God was I wrong, and I was never happier that I was.
Along came the first round in Melbourne and boy did you stamp your mark on the grid. Almost pole position in an atrocious qualifying session, and a brilliant podium during the race. I know it sadly ended in a disqualification for a regulation infringement on the car, but a fantastic effort nonetheless. A taste of what was to come. Three unreal wins in Canada, Hungary and Belgium were just fascinating to watch. A new star of F1 was born. I loved Hungary, you absolutely making mince meat of two top drivers and champions – Lewis and Fernando - And robbing them of victory. I was glued to that RB10.
You never changed. 2015 was a hard year on everyone, things just didn’t go the right way but things happen. Your podium once again in Hungary, in tribute to the lost Jules Bianchi was amazing, and still to this day I ponder about how your RB11 held on that day after all the abuse it got in the closing laps! 2016 and 2017 more of the same, and it was absolutely amazing to see. The hectic Azerbaijan Grand Prix of 2017 was the maddest thing I ever saw. I didn’t expect much that day as you started 10th and as well as a having dropped to 17th I thought that’s it for today. I have to go away and missed the majority of the race to come home and find not only you had won, but you passed three cars in the one corner and held on to take the victory. Holy cow, how did he do it! Only the Honey Badger could.
See, on a personal note, you have done so much for me and you probably don’t even know it. You might not remember, but not so long ago we actually met each other. You, heading to the Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona for the start of the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix, and me, a guy in a foreign country for the first time in his life half lost looking for the bus to the track, and it was you that spotted me. I walked down the street, sporting your famous No. 3 Red Bull cap when not half paying attention spotted that beautiful Aston Martin and noticed it was Red Bull’s Aston Martin, and a guy with sunglasses was waving out the window at me. It couldn’t be…
I remember every second of our conversation. I remember you insulting my Ferrari shirt and telling me to buy a new one at the track. But most of all I remember you’re absolute decency and respect towards me that day. I’ll never forget trying to get a selfie and panicking when the light turned green and your driver went to pull away, and you’re exact words: “No, stop, don’t go, we have to take a picture with this man.” Holy shit. Daniel Ricciardo wants a picture. You even went as far as taking my phone off me and taking the picture yourself. I could not believe it. You did this for me, a stranger, a guy you never met before, and a guy you could’ve well just ignored on the street or said you were running late. But you didn’t. I just met a Formula 1 driver, and he made the time for me. I was in shock.
You pulled away immediately after thanks to some angry Catalans beeping their horns at two idiots taking selfies in Friday morning Barcelona traffic, but I just stood there. I couldn’t move in disbelief. I rang my mother. I texted my girlfriend, I’ve recounted the story to every person I know and I posted the damn picture on every social media I could find. I could not believe what you did for me. And ill be forever indebted to you for that. It was that first encounter that formed the basis of my first article on Drivetribe and it’s thanks to you where I am today. I’m currently working for two other Motorsport websites, and even got the chance to cover the Red Bull Showrun a few weeks ago in Belfast as a Media official and attended a press conference with David Coulthard, another amazing bloke. Even him I mentioned to about our encounter to with he responded: “That’s Daniel for you!” You opened up a whole hobby and possible career for me, one I didn’t even have an intention of doing and now its one of the best things I’ve ever tried.
The only thing that has annoyed me about that day is that I never got to say thank you to you and your driver, but hopefully in the future I’ll get a chance to express to you how much that part of kindness actually meant to me. When I shared my story on Drivetribe I was astonished by the response from people I got, they also sharing their special stories of meeting you and how kind, respectful and humble you are to everyone, and how incredibly decent you are. That’s top notch Daniel.
When you announced you would leave Red Bull to go to Renault Sport I was quite surprised. My initial reaction was that you had lost your mind and gone mad, but the more I thought of it the more I actually believed it was a good idea. This year has been hard for you at Red Bull and of course it’s been hard to see you so frustrated, but that’s the game sometimes, and a fresh start is never a bad idea. There’ll be times coming up where things don’t work out or things get frustrating but if you ever doubt your move was the wrong thing to do, remember how mad people thought Lewis was when he moved from McLaren to Mercedes and look where they are now! Hard work and commitment will get you to where you want, and in a constantly developing and improving team like Renault, the only way is up.
Thank you Daniel for being you, and thank you from a personal side too. Without going into details, it’s been a pretty tough year on me and my family, but remembering your decency has always got me through the tough times. Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, months or years, please just do us one favour. Keep smiling, cheering, laughing, joking. Just keep being yourself, that in itself is enough reason to be always behind you.