How a life-changing chat with F1 icon Michael Schumacher helped set a young Daniel Ricciardo on the road to motor sport stardom: ‘I thought he was god’
- Ricciardo held Schumacher off as they chased points in 2012 Japan Grand Prix
- Aussie rated it one of the three best drives of his career in Formula One
- He has revealed how words of encouragement from the icon affected him
Daniel Ricciardo has revealed how he got a huge confidence boost when legendary driver Michael Schumacher gave him some well-chosen words of encouragement as he was starting out in the sport.
The Aussie F1 star was driving for Toro Rosso in 2012 – his first year in the sport, aged just 23 – when he managed to hold the German great at bay for 17 laps as they chased points at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
Ricciardo finished in 10th, winning the last points of the race, and branded the effort one of the top three drives of his career, saying he surprised himself with his ability to defend against the seven-time world champ.
‘I was still intimidated by him at that time. Obviously I was like, he’s god,’ Riccciardo recalled.
Ricciardo – pictured in the pits at the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix – rated his drive that year at Suzuka as one of the three best in his career after he held Michael Schumacher at bay
That year was the German icon’s last in the sport after he ended a brief retirement to race for Mercedes (pictured) – and his words had a huge impact on the young Aussie
But what happened at the next race would stay with the Perth-born star forever.
‘That was a very important race for me, which is not talked about because I finished 10th,’ he told Speedcafe. ‘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.
The two drivers’ lives went on radically different paths following that season, with Ricciardo stepping up to Red Bull in 2013 to replace his fellow Aussie Mark Webber (pictured together)
Schumacher was laid low by a horror skiing accident in December 2013, was placed in a medically induced coma and is now looked after by his wife and a medical team
‘Maybe he didn’t realise at the time what he was doing, but he boosted my confidence a lot.’
It would be Schumacher’s final season in F1 after he’d come out of a brief retirement to race for Mercedes for two years.
In December 2013 he suffered a horror skiing accident that resulted in him being placed in a medically induced coma.
He was brought to the family’s Lake Geneva home in September 2014 where a team of medical staff now support his wife Corinna in looking after the 53-year-old.
Ricciardo drove for Toro Rosso for one more season before being promoted to the Red Bull team, where he replaced fellow Aussie Mark Webber and racked up seven of his eight grand prix victories.