Having finished second in the Sprint on Saturday, all eyes were on Daniel Ricciardo at the Italian Grand Prix. With his front-row position for the start, he took the lead and in doing so, avoided a staggering collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on lap 25 of the course. Viewers around the world watched with anticipation and disbelief, our eyes urging Ricciardo on to the finish line. Back home in Australia, our smiles were wide, but none were as big as that sported on Ricciardo himself, having crossed the line first and taking out the win for the first time since the 2018 Monaco grand Prix where he stoop on the top step of the podium.
The significance of such a moment can’t be underestimated for Ricciardo, who has had something of a difficult start to his time with McLaren after having joined the team for this season. Speaking about the victory and what it means to him, Ricciardo was emotional. He explained, “It means everything. I definitely try not to make, or dictate, my life happiness around the sport because it’s been three-and-a-half years sine I won so I’d be pretty miserable most of the time if I just based my happiness on winning races.”
He added, “It’s just wild…but deep down I never lost faith or the belief and I think I needed to step back and that’s where I think having some time off in August helped, and I truly think that helped this weekend, to get to this position.”
Ricciardo signed to McLaren from Renault for the 2021 season but has experienced a number of trials following the switch, with much of the season seeing Ricciardo searching for pace and confidence with his new team. “It feels, I don’t know what the word is,” said Ricciardo. “It’s reassuring for me. I believe in myself obviously, I think everyone does to get to this point in the sport. I’ve certainly been challenged this year and you know the sport is just a tricky one.”
He added, “It’s not so black and white I guess, and sometimes you do struggle to find some answers but I think you have to stay…true to the course and you can easily get lost as well. I think, deep down I would have moments of frustration or moments of dropping my head but I kind of made a point never to let that last.”
It may have been a test for Ricciardo, with the F1 driver even admitting himself that there were moments where he “fell out of love” with the sport. But ultimately, Ricciardo dug deep to find something within himself and in doing so, remembered what he loves so much about the sport in the process. “For moments you fall out of love with the sport but actually, the clarity you get afterwards makes you realise how much you do love it and how much you want it. I think that’s the most, the biggest thing this weekend, that I knew I’d have a chance to fight for a podium and yes, the want shone through and when it gets to that point and that level, I’ll back myself to the hilt,” he explained.