F1 » Daniel Ricciardo
Australia had waited a long time for a successor to Alan Jones by the time Mark Webber secured his place in F1 but, like buses, the country now has two drivers to cheer following the rapid ascent of Daniel Ricciardo to the top flight.
Like the majority of today's F1 stars, Ricciardo began karting at a young age, hitting the track after his ninth birthday and learning his trade for the next six years, until he was old enough to make the jump to cars.
Driving a vintage Van Diemen, he still did enough to finish eighth in the Western Australia state Formula Ford standings in 2005, although ann outing on the national stage in a slightly younger car proved just how great the step between the two series was going to be.
What could have been a potential stumbling blovk to his dreams of reaching F1 was overcome when Ricciardo won a scholarship to contest the Formula BMW Asia series with Eurasia Motorsport. He grasped the opportunity with both hands, claiming two race wins, both at the Bira circuit in Thailand, and finishing third in the championship. He also made his first visit to the UK, taking up the chance to contest a round of the national FBMW series with Motaworld Racing, and ended the year by joining Fortec Motorsport for the FBMW World Finals, where he finished fifth overall.
Again, feeling that it was time move up, Ricciardo swapped BMW for Renault, joining RP Motorsport for the Italian national series and a handful of Eurocup rounds, finishing seventh overall in the former as he learned the ropes. He then switched to SG Formula for a second season in the category, contesting the Eurocup and Western European championships in 2009. The move proved to be a successful one, as Ricciardo ran out as WEC champion, claiming nine race wins in 15 races, and finished second overall, by just three points in the Eurocup.
That was enough to ensure the Australian was able to move up to F3 full-timeeand, now backed by Red Bull, he slipped seamlesly into the crack Carlin Motorsport line-up. Despite his inexperience at that level, although he ahd made a one-off Euroseries appearance with SG the previous year, he defied his rookie status by setting the tone for the year with three wins in the first four races. Although he failed to appear on the rostrum for a couple of rounds, Snetterton provided a timely boost, and he ended the year with a win in each of the final four double-headers to claim the title with a round to spare.
With nothing left to prove in F3, another move was on the cards for 2010, and Ricciardo remained with Red Bull to join Tech 1 in opposition to Carlin in the World Series by Renault. Again, he had previous experience of the class, having made a one-off appearance at Portimao in 2009, and that showed as he claimed three podium finishes from the opening five races, including victory on the streets of Monaco. Further wins in Hungary, Germany and Spain gave Ricciardo a shot at the title but, despite entering the final race level on points with Mikhail Aleshin, he was passed by the Carlin driver with a couple of laps to go and confined to second in the standings.
Despite having been used by both Red Bull F1 teams for testing and promotional runs, there were no vacancies for 2011, and so Ricciardo returned to the World Series, this time with ISR. Forced to miss the opening double-header, he was back on the podium, and winning, within five races, but, despite further second-place finishes, he was never a factor in the championship battle, his attention having had to be divided between the WSbR and F1, where he was constantly being linked to possible openings at Toro Rosso.
The focus on F1, which has seen Ricciardo running with Toro Rosso during Friday practice, grew in the run-up to the British GP at Silverstone, when it was announced that the Australian was to replace Narain Karthikeyan at struggling HRT. Although there was never going to be a chance of success at the Spanish outfit, Ricciardo used his time behind the wheel wisely, learning his way around a race weekend and pitting himself against former Red Bull driver Tonio Liuzzi in the process.
By the end of the year, his eleven outings had resulted in a best finish of 18th - in both Hungary and India - and a qualifying record of 4-6 against Liuzzi. He also out-gunned the returning Narain Karthikeyan in India, and returned to Red Bull colours for the 'Young Driver' test in Abu Dhabi.
Despite rumours suggesting that he could find a seat at STR - or, more fancifully, replace Webber at Red Bull - it was only just before Christmas that Ricciardo learned his fate, with Toro Rosso axing both
its drivers in favour of an all-new line-up, reuniting the Australian with former FRenault team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
The pair headed into the 2012 season as the least experienced line-up on the grid, but pre-season testing suggested that Toro Rosso's STR7 could be a surprise package, potentially opening the door for Ricciardo to move onwards and upwards. The Australian continued to perform solidly, if unspectacularly, although his qualifying effort in Bahrain, where he nailed sixth on the grid, was particularly noteworthy. His race performances weren't bad either, but failed to produce the sort of results that STR enjoyed in 2011.
Matched from the off by Vergne, Ricciardo trailed in the intra-team battle from round two, despite reaching the points more often. His highest finish was ninth, which he achieved in Melbourne, Spa, Singapore and Korea, but were never enough to warrant consideration as a potential replacement for Webber when his countryman again entered contract negotiations with Red Bull. Ricciardo ended the season 18th overall, his ten-point haul six less than Vergne's, but he will have another crack at the Frenchman as the pair form an unchanged line-up in 2013.