Dan’s the man in Hungary as he continues to impress

Ricciardo wins in Hungary
Ricciardo wins in Hungary

Daniel Ricciardo said his brilliant win in Hungary is just as memorable as his maiden victory in Canada earlier this season.

The Australian Red Bull Racing driver took the chequered flag in a thrilling race at the Hungaroring near Budapest, scything his way past Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the closing stages as his alternative strategy paid off.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates victory with the trophy on the podium after the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Daniel Ricciardo 502736713

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates victory with the trophy on the podium after the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Daniel Ricciardo 502736713

Taking the lead with just three laps to go, Ricciardo took his and the Tilbrook-based Red Bull Racing’s second victory of the season as the teams now head into the summer break.

“Winning (in Hungary) honestly feels as good as the first,” he said on the podium. “It sank in a lot quicker this one, so crossing the line today I knew what was going on a bit more and it’s like I could enjoy it immediately rather than it being delayed, it was awesome.

“To have to pass guys again to win the race, as I did in Canada, makes it a lot more satisfying, knowing that we did have a bit of a fight on our hands – you beauty!”

Ricciardo, although highly rated in the F1 paddock, has been the surprise package of the season, being the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race this season.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari congratulates Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing on his victory in the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Fernando Alonso;Daniel Ricciardo 502736713

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari congratulates Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing on his victory in the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Fernando Alonso;Daniel Ricciardo 502736713

After cutting his teeth at HRT and Toro Rosso before being promoted to the world champions, the 24-year-old now believes he has proven himself to be one of F1’s elite.

He said: “In this environment now I feel, I am a different driver and in a way a different person, a different sportsman than I was last year.

“I’ve got a lot more belief in myself and it’s cool, I definitely feel like I belong here now and I’ve got confidence.

“Obviously we’ve converted two races into wins this year so far and I think that confidence is showing.”

Team-mate Sebastian Vettel meanwhile is continuing to struggle in 2014.

After four consecutive world championships, Vettel finds himself sixth in the standings, cursing his luck after a disappointing seventh place finish in Hungary.

The German was lucky to avoid the wall when he spun coming out of the final corner, compromising his tyre strategy which threw him down the order and out of contention for the race victory.

“It wasn’t a great race,” he admitted. “I spun, which was my mistake, and before that I was unlucky with the safety car in the first stint.

“The timing meant the first four cars lost positions to those running behind. Unfortunately we were then in the wrong mode for the restart and I lost two positions. It’s good for Daniel that he won today, I’m happy for him.”

Red Bull Racing remain best of the rest in second place in the constructor’s championship, but are 174 points adrift of Mercedes.

Ricciardo’s performance in the Red Bull cannot be under-estimated.

Sitting a comfortable third in the driver’s championship standings, Ricciardo is 43 points clear of his world champion team-mate Vettel.

And he’s proving no flash in the pan either. While Vettel’s season has been cursed with the sort of bad luck which befell former Red Bull racer Mark Webber in recent seasons, Ricciardo has been going about his business in calm, calculating style.

In recent times, Vettel has been seen as something of a qualifying master, but this season has been out-qualified by his new Australian team-mate 7-4.

But it’s in the race where things really swing in favour of Ricciardo.

Since pairing up, Ricciardo has beaten Vettel in nine of the 11 races so far this season, including two victories to Vettel’s none.

His performances this season have even impressed Fernando Alonso, who said: “Daniel is a surprise since Australia. I think he’s doing unbelievable. He’s beating Sebastian, and it’s something that probably not one of us expected.”