Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from the season’s first race in Melbourne, had all sorts of problems that culminated with a DNF in Malaysia, and has already picked up a grid penalty for the next Grand Prix in Bahrain. However, despite the difficult start to 2014, Dan should still be delighted with how things have played out.
2014 is not about results or championship points for Daniel Ricciardo. It’s about establishing himself as a top line Grand Prix driver and marking out some territory at Red Bull. During the first two races he took some big steps towards to achieving those goals. Ricciardo qualified brilliantly in Australia in tricky conditions, pulled a great move on Lewis into the first corner, and set consistently quick laptimes on his way to the podium (even if his car was using too much fuel). In Malaysia he displayed more controlled aggression at the start and put some manners on Sebastian Vettel during their brief battle together. Ricciardo could’ve been harsher when Vettel eventually did get by, but he still went defensive and showed his teammate that he was no pushover.
This coming weekend in Bahrain could be good as well. Ricciardo will probably be starting from around 15th on the grid so will have a chance to hog some TV time as he carves through the field. A spectacular drive from 15th to 5th could be better for his reputation than a solid performance from 4th to 3rd.
Ricciardo is smashing personal targets even though he isn’t scoring points. There is no reason to think his famous smile isn’t genuine at the moment.