Redemption. Served Neat.


How many of you have heard the expression:


The truth of this statement is one I hold dear. Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. the Rock, says it like this:

Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent, hard work gains success. Greatness will come.

Over the course of last weekend, I was treated to a stellar example of this very truth. I’m talking about Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix, and, specifically, the performance of Red Bull’s driver Daniel Ricciardo. His performance and behavior during one of Formula One’s most famous Grands Prix provides too many exemplar examples not to be discussed.

A little back story for those of you who might feel all thumbs here. In Formula One, there are ten constructors (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, et. al.). Each constructor has two teams. Each team has one driver. In the case of Red Bull, their two drivers are Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Daniel has been with Red Bull for nearly a decade, having signed with their sister team Toro Rosso back in 2010. Max blew on the scene in 2014, the youngest F1 driver at 17, and started with Toro Rosso just like Ricciardo, only to make the jump to the big boys at Red Bull in 2016. Currently, Daniel is 28 and Max is 20. In the three years since he’s driven with Daniel, Max has been heralded as the prodigy of the sport. When he’s made mistakes- whether by being too impetuous and causing an incident on track or being too reckless and causing an accident that takes him out of the race altogether-it has been chalked up to his youth and inexperience. 

And while there can be no denying there is unfathomed potential in Max to step up and be listed as one of the greats, his predilection for racing on the cusp has cost the team dearly. Last year, while he did claim two first places during the season, he didn’t finish seven of the twenty races. Concluding the 2017 season, his points put him 6th overall, just behind Ricciardo at 5th. This year, he’s been involved in- if not the cause of- incidents during each Grand Prix which has cost him dearly. 

What does all this have to do with last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix? Patience, dear readers, I’m coming to that. 

daniel ricciardo smiling.jpg

At the end of 2018, Daniel’s contract is up with Red Bull. Customarily, this is the time when a driver of his caliber starts to look to the big guns. In F1, those are primarily two constructors: Mercedes and Ferrari. As of now, both constructors seem happy with their line-up, what with 4x World Champions Hamilton and Vettlel at the helm of each. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas are good fits, too.

Given that, speculation has abounded that Daniel is in trouble. Furthermore, going along with contract speculation is a hefty dose of continual criticism. Talk on the QT has been that Daniel’s in trouble for another reason altogether. What? According to inferred gossip, Daniel’s momentum has slowed since Mad Max descended on the scene. 

To add further insult to injury- at least where the gossip rags are concerned- Red Bull signed a bumper new deal with Max to extend his contract until 2020. What’s the insulting part? Well, his contract wasn’t up until 2019. Red Bull was worried that Max would use a loophole in his current contract to leave them and sign with Mercedes. So, they threw cash at the problem, and it wasn’t chump change. Max is now one of the highest paid drivers in F1, just behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. 

So, what’s Daniel been doing? 

One things for sure. He hasn’t been listening to all the negative nellies out there. Nope. He’s been driving. He’s showed up each race, smiling- always smiling and laughing and just having fun, as he said on his Instagram, and he’s driven. When mistakes have been made, he’s learned from them. And he’s driven. He’s driven and driven and driven. Even when victory was wrestled out of his unwilling hands because of team errors (Monaco GP 2016, I’m glaring at you), he’s gotten back in the car and driven.

Now. Monaco. 2018. During the three practice sessions, Daniel dominated with the fastest laps in each sector. During the three qualifying sessions, Daniel dominated setting pole in each section. And, during the ENTIRE Grand Prix, Daniel dominated, even though he was crippled after lap 28 when his MGK-U unit failed, losing him about 25% of power from his engine. He maintained the lead throughout the whole race, holding the stallions and silver arrows at bay. The entire weekend of driving was flawless for the man from down under (which is divine retribution considering his massive upset at the 2016 Monaco GP.)

When Frank Sinatra declared The best revenge is massive success, it feels like he may have been a racing clairvoyant, predicting how Ricciardo must have felt on his cool down lap before parking his racer in the Parc Ferme. In one weekend performance, he effectively shut down the nay-sayers who poo-pooed his standing in the sport. Or, if they didn’t outright poo-poo him, they didn’t consider him a contender. 

Ladies and gents, Daniel is indeed a contender. And don’t just take my word for it. Martin Brundle, Sky News Expert F1 pundit, agrees with me. 

He’s certainly of that ilk (Hamilton and Vettel) now, and you’ve got to include him in those conversations when you’re talking about who’s the best driver on the grid.

While slow and steady didn’t win him the race, the old adage applies to Daniel nonetheless. Why? Because it’s about consistency. 

Where Max’s boldness has been a flash of brilliance (which I believe can burn brightly for many years if he amends the error in his racing ways), Daniel’s consistency has built for him a solid career, brick by brick. 

daniel ricciardo stands on halo monaco GP.jpg

And here’s another thing. I think Daniel knows this is a major turning point for him. Ordinarily, he’s ebullient at the finish of a race. While clearly pleased at the conclusion of Monaco’s GP, there was a calmness about him, a quiescence, a stillness. Perhaps it’s best described as a reverence for the moment that demanded reverence in response. He climbed out of his racer, balanced on the halo, and just stood there. Valiant. Vindicated. Victorious. In that moment, words were unnecessary. To the victor go the spoils, and the spoils, dear readers, are quite good.

No, he doesn’t have a contract yet. But, he does have something that should never have been in question. He has respect. Since Monaco, nearly every article I’ve read has been panergyric. Not only do they applaud his consistency, he is also getting attention for his cool under intense pressure. His team is thrilled with him (I don't think I've ever seen Christian Horner so happy), which can only be a good thing going into contractual negotiations. Furthermore, while Red Bull still has faith in Max’s abundant talent on track, they do see more clearly that while talent is important, it must be tested, tempered, and forged to ensure precision and performance. While everyone was brimming and spouting about Verstappen, Ricciardo was honing his precision and improving his performance day in and day out. Now, he’s basking in the glory all that unseen and uncelebrated effort has wrought. 

So while his MGK-U may have decreased his power output, it appears that consistency, at the end of the day, supplied the power necessary for Ricciardo to win the race. Now, as the Rock inferred, greatness has come. 

And that’s, as Ricciardo wrote post-race on his Instagram:

Redemption. Served neat.