Australian Formula One legend Alan Jones believes Daniel Ricciardo has all the tools to become a world champion after celebrating his maiden victory, in a crash-marred Canadian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo, the West Australian with the infectious smile, capitalised on electrical and power problems of the dominant Mercedes team to only take the lead in his Red Bull Racing machine on the penultimate lap in Montreal.
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.
Drivers were forced behind a safety car for the final lap after a terrifying high-speed collision between Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams. The pair flew into the barriers as they braked at speeds of more than 240km/h but each escaped serious injury.
Jones, who took until his third season in 1977 to claim his breakthrough win, said Ricciardo’s victory would be a major psychological boost and could be the first of several this season.
“It’s good to have that first one under your belt because he now realises you can do it. He has done it. His sights will be set a lot higher now because his confidence will be a lot better, not that he was lacking in any of those. It just psychologically helps you,” Jones said on Monday.
Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate and defending world champion Seb Vettel finished third, with Ricciardo now arguably the team's No.1 driver. In his first season with the major team after replacing fellow Australian Mark Webber, having been a F1 driver since the 2011 British Grand Prix, Ricciardo has three podium finishes this year, although that would have been four had he not had his second placing in the season-opening Melbourne Grand Prix wiped because of a technical infringement.
However, Jones said it would be “improbable” for the Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg (122 points) and Lewis Hamilton (118) to not claim the driver’s championship this season, considering their hold on the points table. Mercedes had won all six previous races. Ricciardo is fourth (54), with Vettel sixth (45).
“Even Vettel doesn’t have a chance of winning it this year. I think Mercedes have opened the gate, they have romped (in). I just think they built up too many points, particularly Rosberg,” Jones said.
“It’s not impossible but improbable but there is no reason why he (Ricciardo) can’t go on to win more Grand Prix.”
Asked if Ricciardo, 24, was capable of winning the title within three to five years, Jones, Australia's last world champion in 1980 and an expert commentator on Channel Ten’s F1 coverage, replied: “Absolutely, no question”.
“(But) at the end of the day, three years ago Daniel was driving a 3.5 litre Renault and now he has a Grand Prix (win). Formula One changes so quickly. Who would have thought Mercedes would have dominated to the extent they have this year?”
Ricciardo had a low-key celebration as he crossed the finishing line, a victory Webber, who enjoyed nine race wins, described on Twitter as the “first of many”.
“He is that type of lad. He comes from a very stable family. They are a lovely family,” Jones said.
“They have their feet well and truly on the ground. I will be very surprised, indeed, if Daniel changes his demeanour. He will stay a very grounded person.”
Having tasted a fine bottle of champagne which he joked is “usually not my drink of choice but today I started to love it”, Ricciardo said memories of his win at the sun-drenched but unpredictable Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would linger.
“It was an amazing day and an amazing feeling to get my first victory and to stand on that podium. It didn't come easily - it only came in the last few laps,” he said.
“I think it was only in the last eight laps, when I was third ... once I got past Perez that I knew that we had a real fight for the win on our hands. Knowing that Mercedes had some problems, it was important for us to capitalise and get this win. I did not want to let this slip out of my hands as it is not every day that you get the chance to win a Formula One race, so I am really glad I pulled it off.”
Red Bull experienced major technical issues during the pre-season testing period as mechanics adjusted to the new laws and restrictions. As a result, Ricciardo said he had been surprised by his strong start in the seven races so far.
“Looking back at where we were in February, I am surprised. But I always knew that if I had the right package I would be able to challenge not only my team mate, but also the frontrunners. So I always kept my spirit up, and I will do so in the future,” he said.