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Daniel Ricciardo's first GP win

Australian Daniel Ricciardo is celebrating the first Formula One victory of his career at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

PT1M5S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-39rtl 620 349

COMMENT

Daniel Ricciardo is more than just Australia's latest Grand Prix winner.

The affable Aussie, who scored his first Formula One victory in the Canadian Grand Prix overnight, has taken his first step to becoming our next world champion.

Daniel Ricciardo,

Daniel Ricciardo, Photo: Getty Images

The 24-year-old Western Australian joins an elite group of Australians to have stood on the top step of a Formula One podium that only includes Sir Jack Brabham, Alan Jones and Mark Webber, who he replaced at the championship-winning team, Red Bull Racing.

Riccciardo not only broke his duck in Canada - in just his 57th Grand Prix start - he achieved something most thought was impossible. He broke the stranglehold Mercedes-Benz has created on the 2014 season, taking advantage of mechanical troubles for title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who had won every GP so far before yesterday's spectacular race in Montreal.

More than that, though, the Aussie ace has outperformed one of the greatest drivers of all time, his Red Bull team mate Sebastien Vettel -  a task most critics believed was even tougher, and something Webber achieved only occasionally.

Ricciardo has outqualified his four-time world champion team mate in five of the seven races and out raced the German in every Grand Prix he has finished this season.

His Canadian victory has elevated him to third place in the overall rankings - albeit 61 points behind runaway leader Rosberg. But more importantly it places him 19 points ahead of Vettel, a situation that provides him with a significant strategic and psychological advantage within the team.

That is a position that Webber, while hugely respected within the Red Bull ranks, rarely had as Vettel often received preferential treatment. 

Surprisingly, there is no signs of the strained relationship that dictated the intra-team battle between Webber and Vettel during their five years together, as the German has praised Ricciardo's performances despite playing second fiddle to the smiling Aussie.

Ricciardo's results have, however, taken his team bosses by surprise, with Red Bull principal Cristian Horner recently saying "We knew he was quick - we just didn't realise how quick. And he is so cool as well, he is quick, he's good looking, he has got everything going for him."

His win follows a tough start to the year when he was disqualified from finishing second in the season-opening Australian GP due a fuel infringement and then retiring from the next race in Malaysia.

Since then, Vettel has been told to "move over" for Ricciardo in the Bahrain and Chinese Grands Prix - where the Aussie finished fourth in both - before taking the final step of the podium behind the two Mercedes drivers in Spain and Monaco.

While it will take a miracle for Ricciardo's Red Bull team to overcome the advantage currently held by the Mercedes-Benz team this season, he has shown that he has both immense speed in qualifying and yet a calculated ability within the races that belies his experience - qualities of a genuine championship contender.

Unlike some of his rivals - and past and present world champions - Ricciardo has yet to let any ego get in the way of his ascension and still possesses a level of modesty and appreciation for his place in one of the best teams in Formula One.

Like Webber before him, he wears his heart on his sleeve, doesn't mince his words and his infectious personality has made him the new darling among the pitlane.

While his attitude and massive smile are refreshing among a league of self-absorbed egomaniacs, Ricciardo has been groomed for this level of success by Red Bull since he was a teenager.

The son of a former sports sedan racer and successful Perth businessman, Joe Ricciardo, he raced go-karts in Western Australia from the age of nine before briefly stepping up to the junior ranks of Formula Ford competition in 2005.

He scored a scholarship to compete in the Asian Formula BMW series the following year, where he finished third, which led to a place in the World Finals held in Spain. It was his performance there, finishing fifth, that he captured the attention of high-ranking talent scouts from Red Bull.

As a 16-year-old, the energy drinks company then sponsored his move to Europe and graduation through Formula Renault to Formula Three, where he became the first Australian since David Brabham in 1989 to win the ultra-competitive British championship.

He narrowly missed out on the Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2010 before making his Formula One debut with the backmarker HRT squad half way through the 2011 season in the British Grand Prix.

He was promoted to the Red Bull feeder team, Torro Rosso, for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, where a sequence of giant-killing qualifying performances helped promote him to replace Webber this year.

Ricciardo was expected to shade Vettel this season and learn from the German wonderkid, but his results - and the Canadian GP victory - have proven he doesn't need any assistance.