He’s a natural. Born for the top step. So comfortable in the gaze of a hundred million eyes. The chirpy chap from the most isolated city on earth has the sporting world in his enthral.
Daniel Ricciardo, fists clenched and arms held high in a muscle-man pose, takes Formula 1 centre-stage on the Sepang Circuit podium. The electricity of anticipation crackles through the air as Australia’s latest sporting star controls the crowd below.
His Red Bull mechanics, all gathered for the show, wave their shoes in the air, goading Daniel to do the same.
Trophies delivered, wanna-be champagne sprayed and the time has come.
It’s now that we see the real showman Aussie. Ricciardo takes a seat on rostrum step number one and gestures to the crowd. “You wan’ it?! Do ya?!” Laces untied, the sweat-soaked Puma racing boot withdraws from his right foot. The crowd roar.
Nico Rosberg steps up and together Daniel and the German pour sweet bubbly wine into the dark blue boot.
A crescendo of noise rises from the grandstand crowd and track-invading hordes below. Encouraging the throng to increase the noise, Ricciardo is ready. Head tipped back, he holds the fabric flagon aloft like a supplicant and then brings its rear rim to his lips. And there it goes, a sticky-sweet, sweat-infused liquid celebration overflowing our hero’s mouth, running down his face in what surely must be the most weird, wonderful and ultimately unique F1 grand prix winner’s celebration. Ever.
This is what we need. This is what I’m talking about. An incredible F1 afternoon of drama, excitement, wheel-to-wheel racing, overtaking, shunts, fires, disappointment, exultation and petulant post-race politics.
The Liberty Media money men, watching Stateside, must be wrapped. If this, in less than two hours remember, is what ‘their’ sport can deliver then they’re sitting pretty.
Sure, I know, F1 Sunday afternoons aren’t always as good as Malaysia 2016, but you tell me what other sport can deliver so many flat-out highs and crestfallen lows in fewer than two spins of the hour hand…
In so much as they are human beings, F1 racing drivers are just like you and me. Unique and complex characters with good and not-so-good traits, weaving their way along the life path they chose. Of course we’re not living our lives in the focus of the public’s gaze, but when, in the ultimately cynical world of international top-level sport, a guy with the boundless energy, happiness and joy of life so effervescently exhibited by Daniel Ricciardo finds success, we should all rejoice.
If next year’s Red Bull Racing RB13 car is as good as many believe and hope it will be, get ready, get ready for a year of big toothy grins and who knows what atop the podium tower.