Why Daniel Ricciardo ranks beating Michael Schumacher for P10 among best races

Henry Valantine
Daniel Ricciardo racing Michael Schumacher. November 2012.

Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo looks to overtake Mercedes' Michael Schumacher. Brazil November 2012.

Daniel Ricciardo has highlighted an unusual choice for one of the best drives of his career, picking the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix among his top three.

While he scored a solitary point while driving for Toro Rosso at Suzuka, he explained that his final stint became a formative moment for him in his then-fledgling Formula 1 career.

Ricciardo was holding off the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher heading into the last stint of the race, with the seven-time World Champion on his way back towards the points after starting on the back row of the grid.

But Schumacher found an immovable opponent in the young Australian that day, who was able to fight well to keep the illustrious German behind for the remainder of the race – finishing eight tenths of a second in front of the Mercedes driver come the chequered flag.

Given he was still early in his Formula 1 career and had not had much experience of racing wheel-to-wheel with the sport’s all-time great, Ricciardo felt it was a coming-of-age moment for him in the sport.

“One left of field is Suzuka, 2012,” Ricciardo said to Speedcafe.com when asked for his best drives in Formula 1.

“I defended Schumacher in the last part of the race, and I won the last point in 10th.

“That was just more like… yes, I was still intimidated by him at that time; obviously I was like, he’s God.

“When he caught me, if there was live betting, I wouldn’t have bet on myself that I was going to keep him behind for the next 10 laps of whatever!

“The fact that I did that, and the level of comfort I felt defending him, I kind of surprised myself with my race craft.”

There were still several races to go in the 2012 season after the sport’s outing at Suzuka that day, but eight-time race winner Ricciardo explained that having Schumacher talk to him at the next weekend was another moment which made him feel more comfortable in the world of Formula 1.

“From that, I grew a lot of confidence,” Ricciardo explained. “That was a very important race for me which is not talked about because I finished 10th.

“But personally, for me, it was really big.

“It was followed up by him congratulating me [at] the following race on the drivers’ parade, I remember he came up and said ‘good job last week defending’.

“That, for me, getting a bit of confirmation from someone like that, at that age, and that point in my career was huge.

“Maybe he didn’t realise at the time what he was doing to me, but he boosted my confidence a lot.”

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