Australian Daniel Ricciardo stepped out from the shadow of his Red Bull team mate quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel and onto the top of the podium at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, making a sensational debut as Formula One’s newest winner.
Moving into the seat left vacant by compatriot Mark Webber, who retired at the end of last season, the move has proven to be a very comfortable fit for both Red Bull and Ricciardo.
“I’m still in a bit of shock, this is ridiculous,” said a smiling Ricciardo. “Lots of Australian flags, that’s nice.
“It’s not that we were leading the whole race so it’s not like I had time to understand that I was going to win.
“It all happened in the last few laps so that’s why I think it’s still taking awhile to comprehend it in my head.”
Vettel remains the main man at Red Bull but the 24-year-old from Perth has marked himself out as a driver to watch.
He has consistently outpaced and out performed his team mate this season, displaying the type of quickness and potential that could ultimately make him number one at Red Bull if Vettel decides to leave when his contract expires at the end of 2015.
“We’ve been enormously impressed with Daniel, we knew he was quick,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “We weren’t quite sure how quick but we could see from his time in the simulator, test driving for us and his performances for Toro Rosso he had great natural speed.
“When we selected him I don’t think any of could have imagined the type of performances that he has turned in so far.
“To turn in the speed he has is truly impressive.
“Not only is he annoyingly good looking, he is extremely quick and cost effective.”
The breakthrough win marked the third successive trip to the podium for Ricciardo following third-place finishes in Monaco and Spain.
While it seemed only a matter of time before he would reach the top of the podium it was not expected to come in Canada with Red Bull still playing catchup to the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who had won every race this season coming into Montreal.
Starting sixth on the grid, Ricciardo kept his Red Bull near the front and when the Mercedes faltered late in the race the Australian struck, roaring past championship leader Rosberg on the penultimate lap.
The race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve ended behind the safety car after Felipe Massa’s Williams smashed into Sergio Perez’s Force India as they entered the final lap, allowing Ricciardo to cruise to victory ahead of Rosberg and Vettel.
“We benefited from a bit of misfortune from Mercedes but Daniel had to be there to capitalise on that,” said Horner.
“Behind that massive smile is a huge amount of determination and steel and he’s just getting better and better and it’s great to have him in the team and two drivers that are really excelling and working closely and hard together.”
Ricciardo followed the same path to Red Bull as Vettel via Toro Rosso and can only dream that it results in the same success, the German bringing 39 wins and four championships to the team.
Rivalries are quick to develop in the ultra-competitive environment of a Formula One team and while Vettel was happy to let Ricciardo savour his maiden win the German will not be wanting to watch his team mate celebrate too often at his expense.
“Obviously Sebastian is a competitive guy but he knows what it’s like to win his first grand prix,” said Horner.
“Of course he’s happy for Daniel, he’s probably frustrated that it wasn’t him today that won because it was very marginal between the two of them.”