F1 2023: Private Michael Schumacher chat helped make Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo has revealed a private chat with Michael Schumacher in his second season in F1 was one of his formative memories as an F1 driver.

Schumacher is one of the greatest drivers in F1 history, sitting side-by-side with Lewis Hamilton on a record seven world championships.

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But since his skiing accident, the German motorsport legend has taken on an almost mythical quality in the sport, even more so than when he was racing.

Schumacher was a fierce competitor, even famously playing mind games with teammates, including locking former world champion Nico Rosberg out of a toilet minutes before qualifying.

Ricciardo has a good memory with Schumacher however, revealing some private words of encouragement that helped him settle into his Formula One career.

Speaking recently to Speedcafe, Ricciardo revealed a 10th placed finish at Suzuka in 2012 was one of the favourite drives of his career.

At the time, it was his fourth points finish in F1 but it was how it happened that was meaningful for Ricciardo, holding off Schumacher for the last 17 laps to hang onto a points finish.

“I defended Schumacher in the last part of the race, and I won the last point in 10th,” Ricciardo said.

“That was just more like … yes, I was still intimidated by him at that time; obviously I was like, he’s God.

“When he caught me, if there was live betting, I wouldn’t have bet on myself that I was going to keep him behind for the next 10 laps of whatever.

“The fact that I did that, and the level of comfort I felt defending him, I kind of surprised myself with my race craft.”

In 2012, Schumacher was in the final year of his career driving for Mercedes. He claimed only one more podium and finished 13th in the championship.

In contrast, it was Ricciardo’s first of two seasons at Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri) before he was promoted to the top team at Red Bull and just his second in F1.

But while Schumacher was at the end of his incredible career, some words of respect for the young Aussie from the seven-time champion changed his F1 trajectory.

“From that, I grew a lot of confidence,” Ricciardo continued.

“That was a very important race for me which is not talked about because I finished 10th.

“But personally, for me, it was really big.

“It was followed up by him congratulating me (at) the following race on the drivers’ parade, I remember he came up and said ‘good job last week defending’.

“That, for me, getting a bit of confirmation from someone like that, at that age, and that point in my career was huge.

“Maybe he didn’t realise at the time what he was doing, but he boosted my confidence a lot.”

From there, Ricciardo had two third-place championship finishes in five seasons at Red Bull and claimed seven race wins and 30 podiums as he built a reputation for his late braking and excellent defence.

However, his move to Renault and then McLaren in the past few seasons only added one win and two podiums to his career tally and has left his career at a crossroads.

Next season he is set to be the reserve driver for Red Bull, following his worst season in F1 since 2013.

While the door isn’t completely closed for Ricciardo, he was accused of having “cashed in” in his exit from Red Bull in 2018.

McLaren boss Zak Brown didn’t close the door on Ricciardo either, having said on McLaren’s YouTube: “If the stars align, I’d love to go racing with him again.”

But he also admitted Ricciardo’s lack of success in papaya will continue to be a “great mystery”.

“We don’t know,” Brown responded when asked by Speedcafe why Ricciardo had not worked out. “We’ve certainly analysed it. We gave it everything we’ve got, Daniel gave it everything he’s got and our relationship with Daniel was great.

“It was clearly disappointing for both of us as to the outcome but I think it’s a bit of a great mystery as to why [it happened]. I don’t think Daniel knows, we don’t know, we tried everything. Maybe we worked too hard.

“I think ultimately that’s why we both decided to make a change because we had tried everything and we really didn’t know why it wasn’t clicking.

“So hopefully a change of environment for him [will mean] he’ll get his magic back because for sure he’s a magical guy. You saw in Monza what he’s capable of, and he’s done that seven other times. But we needed to make a change because we couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong.”

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