Two years ago today, then 24-year-old Daniel Ricciardo claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in a dramatic thriller at the Canadian Grand Prix, making him only the fourth Australian to take the top step on the sport’s podium (after Jack Brabham, Alan Jones and Mark Webber).
The 2014 Formula 1 season had been dominated by the seemingly unbeatable Mercedes team; the resurgent Silver Arrows had recorded six straight wins from six races, including five 1-2 finishes. They appeared unstoppable.
Heading into the seventh race of the season, the Mercedes-powered cars were expected to set the pace, with the track’s several high-speed sections favouring the outright horsepower. By contrast, it was thought Red Bull Racing would continue to struggle for straight line performance with the underperforming Renault power units.
But despite their issues, the surprise package of the season thus far had been the performance of Red Bull’s new recruit. Ricciardo hit the track in Montreal off the back of two consecutive third places in Spain and Monaco. He was not only giving the Mercedes juggernaut a run for their money, he was also upstaging teammate Sebastian Vettel, the reigning four-time World Champion, in the garage next to him.
With a Mercedes front-row lockout at a circuit that so evidently played to their strengths, nobody could have predicted the eventual outcome.
As the lights went out, Hamilton went on the attack challenging Rosberg at the opening corner; but he lost the battle, and his second place, to the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
However the Briton’s woes did not end there; after edging his way back to second after the first round of pit stops and beginning the attack on his teammate, both Mercedes suffered control electronics problems, shutting down their MGU-Ks. Hamilton suffered a brake failure as a result and was forced to retire after 46 laps, losing precious championship points.
As Rosberg tried to deal with the resulting loss of power, he was slow on the straights and his position was constantly under threat by the Force India of Sergio Pérez.
While the Mercedes drama was unfolding at the top of the pack, Ricciardo’s Red Bull was steadily making its way up the line and reached third position on Lap 48. With Perez in his sights the Australian applied pressure to the Mexican, who was struggling on the oldest tyres of the group, and forced his way into second place as Vettel too capitalised on the situation to demote the Force India to fourth.
With just two laps to go the Honey Badger made his move, sneaking up on Rosberg through the final chicane and slipstreaming past the ailing Mercedes in a breathtaking move.
The final lap delivered a heart-stopping finish to the unexpected and action-packed race. A high-speed collision between Pérez and the Williams of Felipe Massa saw the Safety Car deployed after they slid into the barriers while fighting for fourth place, denying Rosberg any opportunity to reclaim the lead.
In the end it was ‘lucky seven’ for the tenacious Australian. Following a remarkable performance by finishing second in Melbourne with his first Formula 1 podium in front of a home crowd, he was later disqualified for a technical infringement.
But nothing was taking this victory away from Ricciardo; it was a well-deserved win by a formidable racer and a truly likeable rising star.
Images via Red Bull Racing