How Daniel Ricciardo started my journalism career
Three years on from the day I met the legend himself, I explain how he inadvertently started my writing career
For a longtime fan of any sport, meeting one of the athletes that they are forever looking up to can be a lifelong memory. We spend our weeks working and saving our money to see these people in person and what they do, while our weekends off are occupied by following their every move on television and social media. Formula 1 is no different, but when I managed to meet a person I dearly admire in the sport, it was an experience that would change my life, for the absolute better.
In case we haven't met yet, my name is Coilin and I am from Ireland. When I finished school at seventeen, I felt at a dead end. My friends all went off to college and university to new beginnings while I felt so lost in figuring out what I wanted to do, I was sort of left behind. I took up a job in the local furniture factory where I still am today, and despite being forever grateful to hold that job, I always aspired to be more.
n 2018, I and a mate from work took a trip to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. For a person who only left Ireland once before for the previous year's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, I was both nervous and very excited to experience a new country and knew I would instantly feel at home once I got within the confines of the Circuit de Catalunya.
he following morning was a Friday, and I set off into the city to find the bus station for the bus to the circuit. My mate fancied a few more hours in bed with the intention of meeting up later so I headed out alone, not afraid by the unfamiliar streets and customs.
Barcelona is like pretty much any other city, a main road in the middle with smaller streets surrounding it. When I got to this main street, my google maps suggested crossing the six-lane wide street, which obviously I couldn't do. Walking down the street in an attempt to find a crossing, I spotted a dark blue Aston Martin DB11 in the traffic beside me. I didn't really stop to look until I noticed the decal on the side of the car. 'Aston Martin Red Bull Racing' and the all too familiar figure waving at me out the window. Surely not...
It was Daniel Ricciardo on his way to the circuit with his trainer Michael Italiano, who had noticed I was wearing his Red Bull cap. I took a breath, knocked off the google maps app on my phone and chanced my luck. The moment I approached the car he let down his window and greeted me with that familiar accent. He then comically told me he didn't like my Ferrari shirt and I was to change it when I got to the circuit. A solemn remark to the rumours of a move to Ferrari at the time. I couldn't believe it.
Myself and Daniel.
I asked for permission for a picture to take a picture at which the traffic light went green. Michael, who was driving went to take off when both of them noticed my instant disappointment. Daniel then insisted to wait and took my phone from me in order to get a proper picture of us together. I was in shock, they took off and it was over. I honestly could not believe what just happened.
Long story short, we returned home after a great weekend the following Monday and I couldn't stop talking about the encounter, or how good Dan was to me. I spread it all on social media, told anyone I could, everything. That's when I encountered Drivetribe, and decided, without trying to gloat, to share this amazing story.
I didn't think much of the article, and it was full of your typical spelling and punctuation errors, but did it take off. Soon, the article was full of comments both praising my work and sharing their own amazing stories of encountering Daniel, each as special and unique as the next.
Thanks to that first article, motorsport journalist Rob Burnett, who was head of the F1 tribe on Drivetribe at the time, got in touch and suggested I continued article writing as he felt I had a real promise for it. Then, it all hit me. My favourite subject at school was English, writing stories and essays, and I never had anywhere or anyone to properly share my love of F1 or motorsport, why not fuse the two together and give this a proper shot?
Three years to the day, I am now studying to become qualified in freelance journalism, met and interviewed the likes of David Coulthard and Nicky Grist on behalf of Drivetribe, as well as write for a number of different news sites and agencies. I have yet a long way to go, but I know what I want and for one of the only times in my life, I've got a proper end goal to work towards, to become a proper motorsport journalist in the future.
It was all thanks to Daniel's kindness that day, that simple encounter changed my life for the better and gave me a purpose and something to work for. Part of my ambition is to someday meet Daniel again in better circumstances, and explain just what he did for me that day. I owe it to him to say thank you.
For now, I will continue to work hard and not stop reaching my end goal. I adore this sport above anything else, and I am determined to work hard and make it someday. It's something I never thought I would be interested in, but thanks to that simple five minutes of decency and the effort to spend time with a starstruck fan, Daniel put somebody who felt a little lost in life on a road of pure determination and desire to chase a career I didn't think was possible. Thanks Dan.