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Australia has had only two World Champion drivers in the history of Formula One: Sir Jack Brabham in 1959, 1960 and 1966; and Alan Jones in 1980.
Fans down under have been waiting 35 years for another home-town hero, but the wait may soon be over.
The 2014 Formula One season saw the rise of Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo is the Australian young-gun with the cheeky, cheerful personality who earned the coveted spot at the Championship-winning Infiniti Red Bull team when fellow countryman Mark Webber retired.
With an ever-present smile on his face, and the image of a honey badger on his helmet (one of the animal kingdom’s most ferocious fighters), the then 25-year-old suited up alongside quadruple World Champion teammate Sebastian Vettel.
In his fourth year in the sport, Ricciardo claimed his maiden Formula One victory in a drama-filled thriller at the Canadian Grand Prix last June.
It was lucky seven for the Australian in Canada, who started the season with more bad luck than good. After a remarkable performance finishing second in Australia with his first Formula One podium in front of a home crowd, he was later disqualified for a technical infringement.
However behind the trademark ear-to-ear grin lays a ruthless racer. Formula One’s rising star repeatedly out-performed his teammate in 2014; finishing the year with three wins, an additional five podiums and third place in the Drivers’ Championship.
With the world watching and the immense pressure of stepping up to race for the sport’s top team, the affable Aussie took it all in his stride, downplaying his form and remaining modest about his achievements. Even after his disqualification in Australia, he conducted himself with dignity and humility and showed a maturity far beyond his years.
The Honey Badger is fast establishing himself as a talent to watch for the future. He is incredibly disciplined and determined, and has the skill and temperament to go all the way.
Last year has shown it is not a question of if, but when, will Daniel Ricciardo become World Champion? He has the hunger and the ability to join motorsport’s elite club of champions.
Will 2015 deliver a long overdue Australian Formula One World Champion, and can Red Bull close the gap on reigning champions Mercedes?
Only time will tell. And with the Australian Grand Prix set to roll into town in seven weeks’ time, we won’t have to wait too long to see.