Miami Grand Prix 2024: Daniel Ricciardo’s moment in the sun

MIAMI — Long after the checkered flag flew in Miami, drawing to a close the F1 Sprint race here on Saturday, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo was still in the TV pen, talking to every media outlet he could, while flashing his trademark smile.

With good reason.

The wake of a disappointing start to the season was behind him, and the promise of brighter days were on the horizon. Following yesterday’s strong Sprint Qualifying performance, that saw Ricciardo finish in P4 and start today’s F1 Sprint Race on the second row, Ricciardo finished the job, placing fourth for his first points of the season, and for the team’s best result this year.

And perhaps quieting for a moment the rumors about his F1 future.

Early in the F1 Sprint Race Ricciardo pushed up into P3 for a moment, getting by Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez and putting himself in podium position. However, on the fifth lap Pérez returned the favor, sneaking by Ricciardo and shuffling the VCARB driver down into P4.

As the Sprint Race wore on, Ricciardo’s rear-view mirrors were filled with Ferrari red — and blue, this weekend — as Carlos Sainz Jr. continued to close the gap. Oscar Piastri joined the fray as well, and it looked as if Ricciardo would need to squeeze every last bit of performance out of his RB01 to hold on for fourth.

He did.

And as the Australian driver crossed the line, the entire team celebrated, and you could almost hear the relief from Ricciardo:

“I prefer it at the front,” said Ricciardo. “That was fun. Thanks … thanks guys.”

As Ricciardo exited the garage and headed towards the media area, you could again see the relief in his eyes, as well as that trademark smile:

Speaking with the media following the race, Ricciardo made quick mention of the constant chatter about his future. “Qualifying was obviously great, but to back it up over the course of a Sprint race, that’s even more satisfying,” said the driver during his TV interviews. “It feels very good and nice to also keep a few people quiet!”

The year began with Ricciardo’s name being mentioned for a potential spot at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen next season, with Pérez driving on an expiring contract. But a slow start to the year not only raised questions about those prospects, but called into question Ricciardo’s future in the sport. Anytime Ricciardo failed to advance during qualifying, or was overtaken on the track, cameras would immediately cut to Liam Lawson, the looming specter of the young driver hanging over Ricciardo’s present, and future.

But those camera cuts can wait.

Because that smile is back.

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