Comfortably the most successful non-Mercedes driver this year, Daniel Ricciardo won just once in 2016 but was owed at least two more.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||15/21|
|Beat team mate in race||10/18|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||572/1137|
Red Bull weren’t on Ferrari’s pace at the beginning of the season until Renault introduced an engine upgrade at Monaco. Nonetheless Riccairdo took the fight to the red cars and impressed by beating them to a place on the front row in China. He was leading when a tyre let go.
That meant it was the other Red Bull, in Daniil Kvyat’s hands, which reached the podium first. But Kvyat lost his role as Ricciardo’s team mate after badly compromising his race in Russia. This turned out to be Ricciardo’s only point-less race in a season where he never failed to see the chequered flag.
In Spain he hit the front when the Mercedes drivers took each other off. But with Red Bull anxious to cover off the threat from Ferrari’s two-strategy approach Ricciardo ended up a distinctly unimpressed fourth. His frustration deepened in Monaco, where he dominated the weekend but lost the win when his team fluffed a tyre change.
Throughout the season Ricciardo’s strongest card was his qualifying performance. It wasn’t until Silverstone that he qualified behind his team mate, and he ended the year with a combined 15-6 margin over Verstappen and Kvyat.
As Red Bull replaced Ferrari as the second-quickest team, Ricciardo took the fight to Mercedes when the opportunity presented itself. He grabbed second in Germany (thanks in part to team orders) and split the Mercedes in Singapore.
It took until Malaysia for Ricciardo to claim an overdue first win of 2016. This was a showcase not only of his one-lap performance – he got through Q1 on medium compound tyres, saving fresh softer rubber for the race – but his racecraft, as he shrugged off a fierce attack from his team mate.
There’s no doubt Ricciardo will face an increased challenge from the occupant of the other Red Bull seat next year. Verstappen was a more potent threat in the final races of 2016. Ricciardo will have to dig deep to maintain his superiority next year.
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Over to you
Definitely the standout driver of 2016. His bad weekends were still seven-out-of-ten. His worst is ridiculously high and he definitely stepped up when challenged by a very promising young driver. The smiling assassin is my choice for driver of the season.
What’s your verdict on Daniel Ricciardo’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.
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The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:
- Race-by-race notes on how they performed (see below)
- How well they performed compared to their team mate
- How competitive their car was
- Other data on the 2016 season
View race-by-race notes on Daniel Ricciardo
Australia – Made it into Q3 but was unable to beat any of the other cars. Hulkenberg passed him at the start but Ricciardo produced a surprise attack at turn three on lap four to regain the place. He rose as high as second place after the stoppage while running on soft tyres, but his final pit stop dropped him out of the podium places. He took Massa for fourth place.
Bahrain – A stellar qualifying lap saw Ricciardo claim fifth place on the grid despite having the fifth-slowest car in a straight line (albeit the fastest Renault). He tried to take advantage of the turn one chaos but ended up hitting Bottas with his front wing. The team elected not to change it – another indication the RB12 generates prodigious amounts of downforce. A very early change to soft tyres allowed him to use the undercut to his advantage throughout the rest of the race, and brought the car home a fine fourth once again.
China – Ricciardo fancied Red Bull’s chances of taking a Ferrari or Mercedes scalp if it rained during qualifying, but beating both SF16-Hs in the dry was an outstanding performance. He took the lead at the start thanks to his super-soft tyres but they let him down two laps later – a puncture forcing him into the pits. The appearance of the Safety Car moments later was a double-whammy. But a feisty drive through the field eventually yielded fourth place. Crucially he kept Hamilton behind early on then passed the Mercedes with a gutsy move at turn six.
Russia – Tested the Aeroscreen on Friday morning then got on with a typical programme, ending up within three tenths of a second of Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Red Bull didn’t appear to have the one-lap pace to beat Williams and Ricciardo duly lined up behind both of them. Contact from Vettel by way of Kvyat at the start left him with a badly damaged floor. A gamble on medium tyres didn’t work out ad he finished 12th after a second pit stop.
Spain – Responded perfectly to the challenge of his new team mate in qualifying, using just a single lap in Q3 to put him comfortably in the shade. It’s hard to see what more he could have done in the race as Red Bull’s strategy decision made the difference between the two drivers.
Monaco – Signalled Red Bull’s potential on Thursday, demonstrated it on Saturday with the first pole position of his career, and led masterfully in the wet conditions on Sunday. But for the second race in a row a win got away from him and the blame lay back in the pits – this time with his crew who failed to get his tyres out on time for his final pit stop. On his in-lap Ricciardo had been over two seconds quicker than Hamilton in the middle sector so this was a clear victory opportunity blown.
Canada – After Friday he said he’d be content to get within half a second of Mercedes in qualifying. He managed that with another superb lap. At the start he left Verstappen plenty of room at turn one but paid the price as they came out of the second corner and found Rosberg’s car in front of them. His first pit stop dropped him behind Raikkonen, compromising his strategy, and a lock-up meant he had to make an early second pit stop.
Europe – After being the first to hit a barrier on Friday he bounced back on Saturday, grabbing a spot on the front row by matching Vettel’s lap time to within a thousandth of a second but doing so moments before the Ferrari driver, putting him ahead. However Red Bull’s low downforce set-up meant they struggled with their tyres in the race and both drivers had to pit twice, dropping backwards.
Austria – Only had time for a single lap on slicks at the end of Q3 and although he produced a good effort Red Bull clearly missed an opportunity. Verstappen got ahead of him on lap two but Ricciardo lacked his team mate’s pace, particularly after the Safety Car period. He passed Button for fifth but wasn’t close enough to take advantage of Rosberg’s penalty.
Britain – Out-qualified by his team mate for the first time this year, Ricciardo reckoned Verstappen had found a faster way through the slow Vale chicane. He made an early switch to intermediates but lost out because of the Virtual Safety Car and had to catch and pass Perez. Appeared to be the highest-placed driver who did not go off during the race.
Hungary – Got within two-tenths of Hamilton in qualifying and beat his team mate and felt he would have been close to Rosberg’s pole time without the yellow flag. A rapid start allowed him to briefly split the Mercedes but he got boxed in behind Hamilton, allowing Rosberg through. An aggressively early second stop proved an unsuccessful attempt to get back ahead, and left him running a long, 37-lap stint to the end under constant pressure from Vettel.
Germany – Beating either of the Mercedes didn’t seem possible but Ricciardo got within four tenths of a second of them in qualifying. Gained a place from Rosberg at the start but lost one to his team mate. Nonetheless Ricciardo’s pace on the super-softs was better, and it could have been an interesting fight between the pair had Red Bull not needed to ensure both stayed ahead of Rosberg. Ricciardo’s path to second place was therefore made easier than it might have been, but both Red Bull drivers did well to capitalise on Rosberg’s problems.
Belgium – With Red Bull diverging on strategies Ricciardo lined up fifth behind the Ferraris and Verstappen but on the soft tyres. Once that trio took itself out of contention he occupied third but struggled for pace due to front wing damage. Red Bull were able to rectify this under the Safety Car and give him a free pit stop. From then on his pace was good, often a match for Rosberg’s in the final stint, and he delivered second place.
Italy – Both Red Bull drivers tried to get through Q2 on the soft tyres but couldn’t make it. Ricciardo was one-thousandth of a second off beating Bottas to fifth. Choosing to run super-softs for his final stint gave him a chance to pass the Williams, but he had a narrow window of opportunity during which the Red Bull’s braking advantage was bigger enough to make it possible, and he came from an enormous distance back to complete a remarkable move.
Singapore – A rapid time in Q1 raised hopes another pole position would be possible but he had to settle for second place behind Rosberg. He gave chase to the Mercedes all race long, especially when he had a chance to attack in the closing stint. Finishing less than half a second behind the Mercedes, it was clear he’d left nothing on the table.
Japan – Both Red Bull drivers had their qualifying simulations on Saturday interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period. Ricciardo said a gradual loss of engine power impaired his qualifying effort, but he was promoted to fourth by the Ferrari drivers’ penalties. That was a mixed blessing as he started directly behind Hamilton, whose own slow getaway compromised Ricciardo. He made life more difficult by going off at Spoon at the beginning of his second stint. His final pit stop was both slow and too late to prevent Raikkonen demoting him to sixth.
Malaysia – Felt his tyres beginning to go in the final sector during his qualifying lap, and ultimately was beaten to third by Verstappen. However he saved an untouched set of soft tyres by getting through Q1 having only run mediums. He fit them for the final stint having brilliantly shrugged off an attack from Verstappen, who was on much fresher rubber.
United States – Split the Mercedes on Friday and lined up behind them on Saturday, the highest-placed driver to run the super-soft tyre at the start. That paid off as he got ahead of Rosberg and did everything he could to stay there until the Virtual Safety Car thwarted his efforts.
Mexico – Red Bull had a low-key Friday but Ricciardo was the quicker of the pair. Verstappen beat him in qualifying, however, as Ricciardo was perplexed by his car’s handling. He took advantage of the Safety Car to pit on the first lap and get rid of his super-softs, and although he worked his way speedily through traffic he wasn’t able to use the time gained to jump either of the Mercedes. He let Verstappen through when asked which proved prudent, as he caught his team mate and Vettel at the end of the race and their penalties eventually allowed him to take third.
Brazil – Another driver who felt he had erred on the conservative side on his final run in qualifying. Ricciardo caught a tough break when he fell foul of the little-used rule on pit lane closures having failed to spot the warning boards in poor visibility. He was also struggling with his visor leaking in the closing stages which partly explains why Verstappen made such better progress over the final stint.
Abu Dhabi – There was little to choose between the Red Bulls on Friday – Ricciardo was just one-thousandth off Verstappen – but the gap to Mercedes was a greater concern for the team. Verstappen led much of qualifying but Ricciardo pulled a great lap out of the bag at the end to take ‘non-Mercedes pole’. He couldn’t hold his position at the start on super-softs, however, and despite a strong effort he failed to pass Raikkonen on the track. The team arguably slipped up by leaving him out while several of his rivals were stuck behind Verstappen. Sticking with the two-stopper limited his points-scoring opportunities to fifth place.
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