#F1 In Defence of The Honey Badger @danielricciardo @redbullracing

Going on holidays this year I decided to do something I never do. I didn’t bring a computer with me. To be honest being in the middle of Year 2 with Motorsport.ie and having writer and editor duties I thought I’d take a break. It was good craic, and much needed.

Of course I watched every conceivable form of motorsport going while I was away. I enjoyed it. That might sound odd. The busman’s holiday so to speak. Takes time off watches F1, 24 hours of Spa & ELMS in Red Bull Ring. If there’s one thing you could label me with it’s that I’m obsessed with Motorsport. (Yeah okay you all know that anyway)

What I did do, and I normally don’t, was read other Irish media coverage of the F1 races. I was particularly interested to see what the opinion would be on the total capitulation of the radio ban and the hard-line stance taken on track limits. This would be high on the agenda, right? Apparently not.

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Top three finishers, Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in the post race press conference at Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

What did Irish Motorsport fans get served up by main Irish Media when looking for their F1 fix?
Outrage! Except not that real form of outrage. The faux outrage where somebody assumes a position from on high and proceeds to spout an opinion like it has some form of gravitas. That’s right, Daniel Ricciardo, fresh from the buzz of a podium finish and knocking back a “Shoey” (No, not a Schuey), was having a bit of craic with what he believed to be an Irish journalist. Turns out that journalist was Scottish. Cue backtracking from the Honey Badger as he laughed it off.

For me that was TV Gold, but for reporters that otherwise spend their time covering the Premier League this was a prime excuse to jump on the bandwagon and get a kick in at Daniel’s Faux Pas. “Red Faced”. “Embarrassing”. “Cringy”. “Disastrous”. These were aimed at Ricciardo, but you could equally aim it at the opportunistic tweet grab article.

Missed the footage? Here you go:

Let’s get something straight here.

Motorsport is a drug. It’s like nothing else you’ll ever experience. It gets said a lot but it gets said because it’s true. The only reason we persist through the lows of defeat and crash related injuries is to reach those highs again. Every win you had in the past spurring you on as you push through the hard times, fighting back to the podium.Ricciardo has had one of those seasons. He’s arguably been the driver of the season this year. In qualifying he blew away Daniil Kvyat and he’s only once been bettered in qualifying by the much fancied Max Verstappen. Yet this season has not gone his way.

At Monaco he believed, rightly, that it was his time. He had the better of Lewis Hamilton and he looked set for a win. Mercedes played the tyre tactics perfectly and that made Red Bull second guess themselves. In doing so, switching tyres, they missed the bigger picture and Ricciardo lost track position and the race.
In Spain he once again was in a position to win, but with the teams matching strategies, after Rosberg and Hamilton took each other out of the picture, Ricciardo and Vettel paid the price while the Red Bull Racing debutant, Max, slid in smooth as silk as he nursed his tyres for a glorious win. If you were on Daniel’s side of the garage tensions would be rising.

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Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

That’s the context in which we arrived at the fantastic Red Bull 2 – 3 in Germany. When you’ve been through that frustration the reward is much higher. So when the Honey Badger hit the podium he hit it hard. Maybe it was the bubbly. Maybe it was the shoey mode of distribution. Either way Daniel Ricciardo was at his bouncing best when he hit the interview stage, and long may it continue. So yeah, we’ll forgive him the slip because it was bloody funny.

There is plenty to give out about in F1. Back when I was racing in the UK we were lucky in that the Championships ran under the same organisation every time. This meant the same scrutineers, the same officials, and most of the time the same consistency in punishment if you didn’t obey track limits. I remember the first time we arrived for testing. The Clerk of the Course welcomed us on race day and thanked us for “Using the track as a rough guide”. Needless to say we were under no illusion as to what would be tolerated on race day. This doesn’t happen in F1 as it seems every weekend there is a different stance and it’s farcical. There is a white line. If the whole of the car crosses over this white line you should be penalised. Deliver that consistently and drivers will soon respect track limits.

Even the radio ban is all over the place. The idea was simple. No driver coaching. We’ve gone from having incidents where car failures and even brake failures weren’t allowed to be discussed to suddenly having the whole thing upended again despite the fact that one of the title protagonists lost points because of the original radio ban. It’s as well Hamilton is currently performing the role of steam roller because there would be farcical scenes if Rosberg lost because of a radio ban penalty that is now no longer relevant.

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HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – JULY 28: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and the Red Bull Racing team celebrate for Daniel’s 100th F1 Grand Prix during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 28, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo is not one of the things we need to get wound up over. He’s a character. One that F1 desperately needs. At a time when the sport runs the risk of being consumed by bland Corporate speak and responsibilities I love Ricciardo being allowed to do his thing. I love the fact that Max Verstappen is ruffling feathers of former World Champions. Every time I hear or read somebody complain about either of them I feel they complain about one of the very things that makes F1 watchable in its current form. It’s bad enough that Manufacturers have taken over and we still don’t have anything like financial parity. If nothing else the sport needs characters to survive.

So Daniel. You do you, and feck the haters. One suggestion though. If you do meet an Irish reporter and he gives you stick over the accent. Never mind “Top of the morning to you”.  Tell him

Póg mo thóin