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2014-08-26 08:12

EYES ON RICCIARDO: Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is beaming after winning the 2014 Belgium GP. He is now only 35 points behind Merc's Lewis Hamilton. Image: AFP / Ben Stansall


SPA, Belgium - For the benefit of those who might need reminding after reading Monday's sports pages, Daniel Ricciardo won the 2014 Belgian Formula 1 GP.

It was easy to overlook that fact with the headlines dominated by the turmoil at Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton accused championship-leading team mate Nico Rosberg of deliberately colliding with him but if the young Australian felt in any way aggrieved that his second win in a row (and third of 2014) for Red Bull got less recognition than it deserved then he wasn't showing it.


His beaming grin, broad as ever as he stood on the podium and not fading even when second-placed finisher Rosberg faced twice as many questions in the ensuing news conference.

"To have three in 12 races I think has exceeded a few expectations. Let's say the in-team battle has gone really well," Ricciardo said. "I've shown speed throughout qualifying and races. I've demonstrated good racecraft and good consistency so let's say the team has been really pleased.

"I've been pleased, so we're in a good place. I'm enjoying it more than ever. Each race that goes on I'm having more and more fun so, yeah, just having a good time."

Ricciardo has crept up on Mercedes by stealth since 2013 champion team Red Bull started the season written-off as a no-hoper, slowed by a long list of problems with the Renault power unit in testing.

Perth-born Ricciardo, seen by some as little more than four-times F1 champion Sebastian Vettel's No.2 after replacing compatriot Mark Webber, has clinically reversed the roles like a smiling assassin.

He's smooth, economical with the car, and very quick.

Sunday's (Aug 24) win was Red Bull's 50th in F1 and Ricciardo added another mark on the milestone as the first Australian to win at Spa since the late Jack Brabham in 1960. Before Sunday, despite his success in the previous race in Hungary, the odds on Ricciardo winning were still only 30-1 and even that was not particularly tempting.


"I wouldn't have been brave enough to put a bet on us even with those odds," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "So, quite an incredible performance by Daniel. It's remarkable that he's won only one race fewer than Nico so far in 2014.

"In all honesty, we never thought he was going to be so strong. We knew he was fast, we knew he was a very good racing driver, but I don't think any of us - probably not even Daniel - realised just how good."

Ricciardo is the only driver really taking the fight to Mercedes, the only one other than Rosberg and Hamilton to have won this year, and the only one resembling anything like a championship threat.

While still a definite long shot, the Red Bull driver is now only 35 points behind Hamilton but 64 behind Rosberg with seven races remaining. With double points for the finale, that makes 200 to be won.


"If I'm within 50 coming into Abu Dhabi then, yeah, but there's still a few races to go," Ricciardo said when asked whether he considered himself in the title hunt. "While it's still mathematically possible, yeah, we'll keep fighting.

"To come and steal some points on a circuit where, let's say, we weren't supposed to is nice but I think what's important, looking ahead, is to capitalise on the circuits on which we should be strong. If we can take maximum points, let's say, at a couple of those then it's never over."

Mercedes, still expected to wrap up both titles, has begun looking nervously in his direction since Sunday's implosion. Motorsport head Toto Wolff made that clear after the GP when, discussing the Mercedes policy of allowing the drivers to race each other, he told reporters:

"We don't want to end up in Abu Dhabi with a season in which we lost the championship, Constructors' or Drivers', because we're too much race fans."

Rosberg also acknowledged after qualifying, with Vettel third on the grid and Ricciardo fifth, that Red Bull was closing the gap. "We've seen that Red Bull is a lot quicker here on the straights - the team has made a step forward and we need to keep an eye on that.

"It's going to be a challenge. I still think we have the best car but something is a bit different, a bit new."

A bit different, a bit new... that sounds very much like Daniel Ricciardo.

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