To say that Daniel Ricciardo came of age this year would be one thing. Truth be told, the Australian was exceptional for most of the season.
More often than not, Ricciardo was the leading man behind the Mercedes onslaught and his victories in Montreal, Hungary and Spa-Francorchamps were all well deserved – if a touch fortunate in some regards.
That those wins came off the back of mechanical issues or incidents affecting both Mercedes duo should not be something used to detract from Ricciardo. If anything, he should take some praise for being in the right place at the right time.
After all, race wins are harder to come by if one does not put one’s self into a position to gain an advantage on track.
However it is not just the successes that marked 2014 as a special year for Riccardo, but also the way in which he handled the pre-season mechanical woes.
An unfortunate disqualification from 2nd place in Melbourne was a blip, but it set a benchmark for the season. Two more podiums behind the Mercedes’ came before winning in Canada, with an addition three 3rd place finishes coming prior to season’s end.
There were blips, of course. Both Red Bull’s endured nightmare race’s at their home race at the renamed Red Bull Ring in June, while the red and blue cars were occasionally made to feel invisible behind the resurgent Williams team.
The key to Ricciardo’s season was woven by the reigning champion on the other side of the garage. Many commentators – this one included – expected Ricciardo to manage reasonably well against reigning world champion and teammate Sebastian Vettel, but it doubtful that a great number thought Ricciardo would trounce Vettel in the way he did.
Through the opening two-thirds of the year, Ricciardo consistently made Vettel appear ordinary and it was only when the German wunderkind finally started to get to grips with the RB10 late in the year that their respective performances came close to leveling.
In the end, Vettel has decided to head to the door and out to Maranello, leaving Ricciardo to face the very impressive Daniil Kvyat next year.