Daniel Ricciardo: The Boy Most Likely

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With his million-watt smile, Red Bull athlete Daniel Ricciardo has become one of our most high profile sportspeople. All he needs now is a Formula One World Championship. Men’s Style spoke with him ahead of the 2017 season. By Michael Pickering.

By his own reckoning “it’s only a matter of time” until Daniel Ricciardo wins the Formula One World Championship.

But meanwhile, he secured a completely different honour late last year when the Australian National Dictionary added “shoey” to the annual list of new words and phrases unique to Australia.

The move by the Oxford University Press people, who publish the dictionary, was entirely the result of the natural ebullience of Ricciardo, whose celebration after the German Grand Prix last August – when he skolled champagne on the podium from his own racing shoe – quickly became a viral sensation. The Red Bull Racing star repeated the celebration a couple more times during the season, and even encouraged former F1 driver Mark Webber and star actor Gerard Butler to perform the feat.

“I had no idea how big that was going to become,” Ricciardo tells Men’s Style after his cover shoot on a sweltering pre-Christmas day in Perth. “I still don’t believe it. I think I only realised how big it was when I was sitting at a café here in Perth the other day and a woman who must have been nearly 90 turned around and asked me whether I was going to do a shoey today.””

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But aside from being a ‘have-a-look-at-this’ share on social media, Ricciardo’s shoey trick – which he admits was started by others such as the Gold Coast surfing tribe The Mad Hueys and Australian MotoGP rider Jack Miller – is also revealing of the essential character of the 27-year-old boy racer from Western Australia.

He may be our next superstar in one of the most watched, high-profile sporting pursuits on the planet, but at heart, Ricciardo is as Aussie as they come – low key, no frills, no worries and when the time is right, a bit of a lair. Not only the shoey, but his interactions on race radio during the Formula One season in which he exclaims “Beauty!” and “Cheers boys, that was fun!” as well as making occasionally humorous and sarcastic observations of other drivers during the race. He’s entertaining and highly watchable, this Ricciardo kid.

It’s still there when he bounces into the Men’s Style shoot in a Perth studio, the megawatt grin still affixed despite a full morning of media which included an appearance with his beloved AFL team, the West Coast Eagles. He’s never been styled up to quite this degree and while we’ve been told we’ve got two hours with him, Ricciardo is all hey, no stress, let’s do what we have to and have some fun.
Outside it’s past 40 degrees, probably more like 45 inside the studio, but this shoot is for an Autumn issue – there’s Burberry trench coats and Ben Sherman knits to wear in the shots. Hey, no stress, let’s do this.

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Ricciardo’s easygoing manner and nice guy image, crowned by that bedazzling smile, has been fodder for some long-time F1 observers to suggest he’s “too nice” to ever win the Championship, a feat not achieved by an Australian since Alan Jones in 1980. He doesn’t have Vettel’s ruthlessness, or Hamilton’s arrogance, they claim. It’s an observation that somewhat ignores the stunning natural talent that has put Ricciardo on the cusp of Grand Prix glory after a junior path through karting wins and apprenticeship seasons in various European racing classes before his Formula One debut for HRT at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2011.

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Ask him whether the 2016 season, in which he finished third behind Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, was his best to date and he refers first to 2014, the season he also finished in third place and won three races.

“But finishing third this year felt a bit more convincing and more sustainable,” he says. “I feel like I matched what I achieved in 2014 but it was at a higher, more consistent level where I really pushed myself.”

Never was that more apparent than at one of Ricciardo’s favourite circuits, picturesque Monaco. If he never wins another race, Ricciardo will be remembered for his heroic performance in the wet after securing his first pole position as a Formula One driver. Battling at the front with eventual winner Lewis Hamilton for most of the race, Ricciardo drove with incredible skill and dexterity and appeared set to secure a famous victory when on lap 32, he arrived in the pits to find his team both unready and with the wrong tyres, causing a delayed stop and handing the advantage back to Hamilton. Despite aggressively seeking to retake the leadership in the later laps, Ricciardo had to settle for an epic second place.

“I still feel that the World Championship is a matter of time if we can get all the other race elements right,” Ricciardo tells Men’s Style.

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The new season shapes as a landmark one for Ricciardo. Changes to F1 technical regulations are expected to benefit Red Bull Racing more so than many of the other teams. Re-signing with Red Bull after some late year speculation he would go to Mercedes upon Nico Rosberg’s retirement from the sport, and with a talented young team-mate in Max Verstappen pushing him harder as the team’s number one driver, Ricciardo now has the big race experience and, seemingly, the temperament to become a podium regular.

But despite his immense talent, and the microscope he lives under, and the travel and the glamour and the sheer life-and-death thrill of his sport, meeting Ricciardo is to also glimpse an ordinary guy who gets away from “the craziness”, as he describes it, by reserving a post-season place in his head where he is back with his mates in Perth.

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“It’s little things that … make me realise why I love being home when I can be,” he wrote in his Red Bull diary at the end of last season. “My mates treating me like an idiot, basically, just being one of the boys. Aussie accents and banter. My mates still giving me heaps about not being able to tighten a bolt even though I’m driving the most sophisticated race cars in the world. Give me a set of spanners and I’m hopeless. And walking around in no shoes in an Aussie summer! Get up, singlet on, swim shorts, no shoes, done. Super, super low-key.”

Which about sums up Ricciardo to a tee.

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Photography Greg Lewis
Styling Kim Payne
Grooming Ash Brockman

Thanks to Crown Towers Perth for hosting the Men’s Style team.