As a photographer, it is our job to capture the emotions of a sport. A time and place that will never happen again. Drivers come and go. They get wins. Lose races. Crash. But the moment that always comes with the most emotion is the first win. Every win thereafter will always pale in comparison to the raw energy of the first.
On Sunday afternoon, the guy who smiles the most, even when things aren’t going his way, had the biggest smile he’ll probably ever wear in his life. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo stood at the top of the podium, flanked by a 4 times World Champion on his left and the current championship leader on his right. But only one of those men had the crowd chanting his name and nearly every person in the entire F1 paddock grinning from ear to ear along him.
Arguments can be made that nice guys can’t succeed in F1. The cutthroat business doesn’t lend itself to being friends with everyone or trusting anyone. But somehow, so far, Ricciardo has bucked that trend. Watch him interacting with the drivers and it is clear he has no enemies. The photographers love him and how easy he is to work with, the journalists love him because he’s no Kimi Raikkonen giving one syllable answers. He elaborates. Makes jokes. Smiles all the time. I doubt there has been a more popular winner in F1 in many many many years.
So there he stood. At the end of a chaotic Canadian Grand Prix. A deserving winner. The race had not been gifted to him. A good strategy, a solid drive and a brave pass had put him at the front. And the best news yet, for the first time this season, it wasn’t a Mercedes on the top step. They are far from bulletproof as it turns out. And that, along with Ricciardo’s smiling face is great news for the Formula 1 championship in 2014.