The Australian’s sparkling rookie season has included GP wins in Canada and Hungary, propelling Ricciardo to third overall on the driver standings behind Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Ricciardo’s rapid rise has well and truly overshadowed four-time Formula One winner Sebastian Vettel, who has struggled mightily adjusting to new vehicle standards in 2014. In the middle of a one-month break heading into the back end of the F1 season, Ricciardo has come clean on what it feels like to have a hand up on the world’s best driver.
“Of course I won’t lie: it feels great,” Ricciardo confessed to CNN. “You know he is an awesome benchmark to sort of judge myself on.
“And, you know, not only the rest of the guys in the field but him especially.
“To have shown really good speed against him not only in qualifying but in races as well has been encouraging. So yeah I am enjoying it.”
The boy with the go-karting background leads his German teammate by three places and 43 points on the drivers’ championship and could have made even more ground up on the Mercedes front runners had his podium finish in the season opener in Melbourne not been overturned in controversial circumstances.
Ricciardo’s stellar season has even taken Red Bull leadership by surprise, with team boss Christian Horner admitting he had no clue the 25-year-old would burst onto the scene so quickly.
“Daniel has been a real surprise this year,” he said to Sky earlier this season. “We knew he was quick, we just didn’t realise how quick.”
The F1 season continues in Belgium on the 27th before heading to Italy (07.09), Singapore (21.09), Japan (05.10), Russia (12.10), United States (02.11), Brazil (09.11) and Abu Dhabi (23.11).