Was a journalist’s question the ‘catalyst’ for the old Daniel Ricciardo returning?

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo waves to the fans after qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo waves to the crowd.

One journalist’s question may have been the “catalyst” that led to Daniel Ricciardo’s eye-catching performance in Mexico with the driver determined to prove he is “not a joker”.

Following his anonymous return at the United States Grand Prix after his injury lay-off, Ricciardo was a man on a mission at the Mexican Grand Prix where he qualified his AlphaTauri up in fourth place.

And while he declared “why not” about keeping the position in the race, up against Formula 1’s heavy hitters he fell to seventh.

Daniel Ricciardo was asked if he was a race car driver or an entertainer

That, though, was AlphaTauri’s best result of this season and it moved the team up from 10th to eighth in the Constructors’ standings.

Tom Clarkson, the host of the F1 Nation podcast, wonders if it was triggered by a journalist’s questions one week prior in Austin.

“It was like the 2018 spec Daniel, I felt. It was the first time we’ve really seen that from him I think since he was in the Red Bull,” he said.

“There was an interesting question in the press conference on Thursday. I’m paraphrasing, I can’t remember it exactly, but it was words to the effect of Daniel, are you more of an entertainer or a racing driver, and I felt that somehow hurt him.”

“I am,” he continued as he recalled the tone behind Ricciardo’s answer, “a serious racing driver.”

“It’s so funny you say that,” said Natalie Pinkham, “because I saw a cutaway of him in the garage, the cameras cut to him and he didn’t break a smile. And normally he’d be smiling.

“But he was probably thinking, ‘You know what? I’m going to prove a few people get wrong this weekend. I’m not a joker. The minute the visor comes down I’m a ruthless racer.’

“He tapped back into that.”

She added: “I haven’t been surprised because form is temporary, talent is permanent, and I think we all know what he’s capable of.

“What the frustration has been for all of us, who were supporters of them, is he hasn’t had the opportunity to show it. He comes back, gets the opportunity at AlphaTauri, breaks his hand.

“I mean what are the chances? And then it doesn’t prove to be a clean break.

“Initially he thought, like Lance, he’d be able to come back quite quickly. It was shattered, seven breaks in his hand. So it’s just been a strange time, hasn’t it?

“But I think we all know what he’s capable of. I think he needed this weekend to really prove it though because confidence is a big thing in this game. And he needed for that to be bolstered.”

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The question and Daniel Ricciardo’s answer

Q: Your marketing and PR value have often clouded the narrative surrounding you. Do you think that undermines the driving talent that you’ve been on the grid, particularly in recent years?

A: I would say, in short, no, I think, look, we’ve all certainly… all of our profiles have grown, in the last few years, in particular, since Drive to Survive. So we’ve all kind of felt a bit of that.

“I think just me with my personality, and also just having some fun with the sport. Yeah, that probably got a little bigger as well, because of that. It draws a few LOLs every now and then but I think generally, first and foremost, I certainly see myself as a race car driver, not an entertainer or anything like that.

“It is funny sometimes, people come up to me like: ‘you were great in that season’ and I’m: ‘racing season – or Drive to Survive season?’ So yeah, for sure, to some, we’re maybe not all viewed as race car drivers. But yeah, it’s just it’s part of it.

“But I think we’re all also, as I said, building profiles and a bit of a brand, but it’s not anything that’s taken away from the racing side of it. And that’s first and foremost.

“And I think that’s, for sure, through all of this, it can maybe get away from you a little bit of time so me coming back into it this year and having a little bit of that time off, it certainly made me kind of just figure out what I’m about, I guess, moving forward and how I want to go racing.

“Probably just removing a few things and kind of going back to a little bit of the basics. And yeah, just making sure that I am seen as a race car driver who’s still hungry and determined and not someone who’s just here for a good time.”

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