THE BOY MOST LIKELY

106

Men's Style (Australia) - - Con­tents -

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, if things go to plan, will be Aus­tralia’s next F1 world cham­pion... but first he had to dress up for Men’s Style

BY HIS OWN RECK­ON­ING “it’s only a mat­ter of time” un­til Daniel Ric­cia­rdo wins the For­mula One World Cham­pi­onship.

But mean­while, he se­cured a com­pletely dif­fer­ent hon­our late last year when the Aus­tralian Na­tional Dic­tio­nary added “shoey” to the an­nual list of new words and phrases unique to Aus­tralia.

The move by the Ox­ford Univer­sity Press peo­ple, who pub­lish the dic­tio­nary, was en­tirely the re­sult of the nat­u­ral ebul­lience of Ric­cia­rdo, whose cel­e­bra­tion af­ter the Ger­man Grand Prix last Au­gust – when he skolled cham­pagne on the podium from his own rac­ing shoe – quickly be­came a vi­ral sen­sa­tion. The Red Bull Rac­ing star re­peated the cel­e­bra­tion a cou­ple more times dur­ing the sea­son, and even en­cour­aged for­mer F1 driver Mark Web­ber and star ac­tor Ger­ard But­ler to per­form the feat.

“I had no idea how big that was go­ing to be­come,” Ric­cia­rdo tells Men’s Style af­ter his cover shoot on a swel­ter­ing pre-christ­mas day in Perth. “I still don’t be­lieve it. I think I only re­alised how big it was when I was sit­ting at a café here in Perth the other day and a woman who must have been nearly 90 turned around and asked me whether I was go­ing to do a shoey to­day.”

But aside from be­ing a ‘ have-a-look-at-this’ share on so­cial me­dia, Ric­cia­rdo’s shoey trick – which he ad­mits was started by oth­ers such as the Gold Coast surf­ing tribe The Mad Hueys and Aus­tralian Mo­togp rider Jack Miller – is also re­veal­ing of the es­sen­tial char­ac­ter of the 27-yearold boy racer from Western Aus­tralia.

He may be our next su­per­star in one of the most watched, high-pro­file sport­ing pur­suits on the planet, but at heart, Ric­cia­rdo is as Aussie as they come – low key, no frills, no wor­ries and when the time is right, a bit of a lair. Not only the shoey, but his in­ter­ac­tions on race ra­dio dur­ing the For­mula One sea­son in which he ex­claims “Beauty!” and “Cheers boys, that was fun!” as well as mak­ing oc­ca­sion­ally hu­mor­ous and sar­cas­tic ob­ser­va­tions of other driv­ers dur­ing the race. He’s en­ter­tain­ing and

highly watch­able, this Ric­cia­rdo kid.

It’s still there when he bounces into the Men’s Style shoot in a Perth stu­dio, the megawatt grin still af­fixed de­spite a full morn­ing of me­dia which in­cluded an ap­pear­ance with his beloved AFL team, the West Coast Ea­gles. He’s never been styled up to quite this de­gree and while we’ve been told we’ve got two hours with him, Ric­cia­rdo is all hey, no stress, let’s do what we have to and have some fun.

Out­side it’s past 40 de­grees, prob­a­bly more like 45 in­side the stu­dio, but this shoot is for an Au­tumn is­sue – there’s Burberry trench coats and Ben Sher­man knits to wear in the shots. Hey, no stress, let’s do this.

Ric­cia­rdo’s easy­go­ing man­ner and nice guy im­age, crowned by that be­daz­zling smile, has been fod­der for some long-time F1 ob­servers to sug­gest he’s “too nice” to ever win the Cham­pi­onship, a feat not achieved by an Aus­tralian since Alan Jones in 1980. He doesn’t have Vet­tel’s ruth­less­ness, or Hamil­ton’s ar­ro­gance, they claim. It’s an ob­ser­va­tion that some­what ig­nores the stun­ning nat­u­ral tal­ent that has put Ric­cia­rdo on the cusp of Grand Prix glory af­ter a ju­nior path through kart­ing wins and ap­pren­tice­ship sea­sons in var­i­ous Euro­pean rac­ing classes be­fore his For­mula One de­but for HRT at the British Grand Prix at Sil­ver­stone in 2011.

Ask him whether the 2016 sea­son, in which he fin­ished

'A WOMAN WHO MUST HAVE BEEN NEARLY 90 TURNED AROUND AND ASKED ME WHETHER I WAS GO­ING TO DO A SHOEY TO­DAY.’

third be­hind Mercedes team-mates Nico Ros­berg and Lewis Hamil­ton, was his best to date and he refers first to 2014, the sea­son he also fin­ished in third place and won three races.

“But fin­ish­ing third this year felt a bit more con­vinc­ing and more sus­tain­able,” he says. “I feel like I matched what I achieved in 2014 but it was at a higher, more con­sis­tent level where I re­ally pushed my­self.”

Never was that more ap­par­ent than at one of Ric­cia­rdo’s favourite cir­cuits, pic­turesque Monaco. If he never wins an­other race, Ric­cia­rdo will be re­mem­bered for his heroic per­for­mance in the wet af­ter se­cur­ing his first pole po­si­tion as a For­mula One driver. Bat­tling at the front with even­tual win­ner Lewis Hamil­ton for most of the race, Ric­cia­rdo drove with in­cred­i­ble skill and dex­ter­ity and ap­peared set to se­cure a fa­mous vic­tory when on lap 32, he ar­rived in the pits to find his team both un­ready and with the wrong tyres, caus­ing a de­layed stop and hand­ing the ad­van­tage back to Hamil­ton. De­spite ag­gres­sively seek­ing to re­take the lead­er­ship in the later laps, Ric­cia­rdo had to set­tle for an epic sec­ond place.

“I still feel that the World Cham­pi­onship is a mat­ter of time if we can get all the other race el­e­ments right,” Ric­cia­rdo tells Men’s Style.

The new sea­son shapes as a land­mark one for Ric­cia­rdo. Changes to F1 tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions are ex­pected to ben­e­fit Red Bull Rac­ing more so than many of the other teams. Re-sign­ing with Red Bull af­ter some late year spec­u­la­tion he would go to Mercedes upon Nico Ros­berg’s re­tire­ment from the sport, and with a tal­ented young team-mate in Max Ver­stap­pen push­ing him harder as the team’s num­ber one driver, Ric­cia­rdo now has the big race ex­pe­ri­ence and, seem­ingly, the tem­per­a­ment to be­come a podium reg­u­lar.

But de­spite his im­mense tal­ent, and the mi­cro­scope he lives un­der, and the travel and the glam­our and the sheer life-and-death thrill of his sport, meet­ing Ric­cia­rdo is to also glimpse an or­di­nary guy who gets away from “the crazi­ness”, as he de­scribes it, by re­serv­ing a post-sea­son place in his head where he is back with his mates in Perth.

“It’s lit­tle things that … make me re­alise why I love be­ing home when I can be,” he wrote in his Red Bull di­ary at the end of last sea­son. “My mates treat­ing me like an id­iot, ba­si­cally, just be­ing one of the boys. Aussie ac­cents and ban­ter. My mates still giv­ing me heaps about not be­ing able to tighten a bolt even though I’m driv­ing the most so­phis­ti­cated race cars in the world. Give me a set of span­ners and I’m hope­less. And walk­ing around in no shoes in an Aussie sum­mer! Get up, sin­glet on, swim shorts, no shoes, done. Su­per, su­per low-key.”

Which about sums up Ric­cia­rdo to a tee.

‘ MY MATES STILL GIVE ME HEAPS ABOUT NOT BE­ING ABLE TO TIGHTEN A BOLT EVEN THOUGH I’M DRIV­ING THE MOST SO­PHIS­TI­CATED RACE CARS IN THE WORLD.’

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo

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