Sebastian Vettel; welcome Daniel Ricciardo. “This is the 1!” scream the posters. And there is Daniel, all over Melbourne, in coffee shops, supermarkets, bus stops and bedroom walls, all smiles and sweat and eyes moist with the emotion of victory. Dan minus baggage, too: no Mark Webber championships almost-won; no Australian Grands Prix that should have been. This is Dan, as they call him in Oz, with life ahead of him. Three wins in 2014. What next in Melbourne?
The fans know that they can carry him – lift him as they used to lift Lleyton Hewitt in the nal set, or the Thorpedo in the Olympic freestyle nal, or the Aussies in the deciding overs of the Cricket World Cup. That’s what the Australian fans always do: they surpass the boundaries of mere sport. They make it a life thing. Dan is their man.
Except that this is F1. Nothing is more important than the cars in which the drivers sit. Red Bull have had a difcult winter. The Renault power unit hasn’t had the same improvements as the Ferrari – and Mercedes are still ahead of them both. Dan and his new team-mate, Daniil Kvyat, have covered comparatively little ground in testing. Can it all come good in Australia?