DANIEL Ricciardo has been the best driver of the 2014 Formula 1 season, according to fellow Aussie Mark Webber.
Ricciardo replaced Webber at Red Bull Racing this year and last weekend scored his maiden F1 victory with a stirring drive at the Canadian Grand Prix.
It was the latest result in what has been a stellar season for Ricciardo, with the young West Australian achieving what Webber couldn’t – trounce four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Clearly unintimidated by Vettel, Ricciardo has beaten the German 5-2 in qualifying and leads him in the championship.
But in an exclusive interview with Wheels, Webber said Ricciardo doesn’t just have Vettel’s measure, but this year has outdriven Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and even Fernando Alonso – the man widely regarded as the strongest driver in F1.
“Daniel was always going to do very, very well and I think he’s been the driver of the year,” Webber said.
“He’s adapted well to the new regulations and has had no mistakes, is driving very cleanly and I think he’s living every driver’s dream – to be in a team like that in that kind of situation and grabbing the opportunity with both hands. And that’s what he’s doing.”
Webber added that, while many doubted Ricciardo’s ability to deliver consistent results in a top level team, he always expected Ricciardo to do well in 2014.
“He hasn’t surprised me at all,” Webber said. “Everyone said I was crackers when I said it’d be 50/50, if not in favour of Daniel in qualifying; well, I’ve been pretty much spot on.
“Obviously, when Seb [Vettel] starts having a smoother run technically he’ll get some momentum, but I think Daniel will still finish the season very strong.”
Webber retired from Formula 1 at the end of last season to join Porsche’s sports car effort in the World Endurance Championship.
This weekend marks the 37-year-old’s return to the Le Mans 24 Hours and Wheels will be there, embedded with the team to share all the action as it happens.
Be sure to return to Wheelsmag.com.au for updates, or tune into our live blog on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WheelsAustralia.