Does Daniel Ricciardo’s Bone-Breaking Crash Expose a Career-Threatening Weakness?

Published 08/26/2023, 6:30 AM EDT

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If the past two years of his career weren’t tragic enough, Daniel Ricciardo has been dealt another massive blow after Red Bull offered him the rarest second chances. Red Bull isn’t one to offer second chances, but the Milton-Keynes squad saw a reignited spark in the Honey Badger and offered him a seat in AlphaTauri to see the 12 remaining races of the season through. In light of what transpired during Free Practice 2 at the Dutch GP, Ricciardo might’ve jeopardized his entire season.

Free Practice sessions are meant for drivers to test the limits of their cars. While doing so, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri went just over the edge and crashed into the barriers at Turn 3. A fast-approaching Ricciardo got caught off guard by the Papaya car in his line, and in a case of “either hit Piastri or the barriers,” Ricciardo made his decision, but a split-second too late. Could his split-second reaction (or rather, the lack of it) possibly threaten his career?

Has Daniel Ricciardo gotten a tad bit too rusty during his “six-month holiday”?


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In an all-Australian crash at the banked Turn 3 in Zandvoort, Ricciardo steered his car away from his line just in time to avoid Piastri. While doing so, he made contact with the wall and broke the metacarpal bone in his left hand. Since a metacarpal fracture usually takes three to four weeks to heal, the Honey Badger was immediately written off from racing this weekend. The fact that the Italian GP is next weekend, Ricciardo will most likely miss the Monza madness as well.

With just 10 weekends left in 2023, he had just 13 races (including 3 sprints) to prove that he deserves to continue racing in the pinnacle of motorsport. Although his two performances with AlphaTauri have helped his case, this mishap at Zandvoort might’ve cost him more than he realizes. It brought to light a concerning issue no team would want to deal with. In an interview with F1 at the Belgian GP, Ricciardo was asked about his summer break plans. He revealed, “I say play catch up… In terms of from a physical standpoint, because obviously, my race fitness isn’t what all the other drivers’ is. When shutdown is on, [I’m going to] use that just to train. Of course, try and enjoy a little bit of a holiday, but I’ve had a holiday for six months!” 


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F1, because of its fast-paced nature, comes down to having the quickest reactions. No matter how much a driver trains to make their necks and core stronger, if their reactions aren’t lightning-fast, they won’t be able to survive in the sport. That’s precisely what could potentially threaten Ricciardo’s future. It’s no secret he’s gotten rusty over the six months he spent on the sidelines. He said so himself. Red Bull might pick up on that and not let go because as unforgiving as Zandvoort is, so is Red Bull.

Once Ricciardo realized he had to steer away from Piastri and into the wall, he couldn’t react fast enough to take his hands off the steering wheel. The jerky movements of the wheel when his AT04 hit the barriers caused the fracture. Had he reacted fast enough, he could’ve avoided the potential season-jeopardizing injury. 

With Monza written off, too, most likely, he’ll be left with just eight races to prove himself. Now that he has this slow reaction-highlighting injury on his record (a quality no driver would want), it might very well be that Red Bull (and every other team) might start second-guessing Ricciardo’s abilities—inadvertently affecting his future in the sport. Although Red Bull might take some time to look past this gaffe, the marshalls at Turn 3 didn’t require any convincing.

Daniel Ricciardo received a heart-warming note from the marshals

As Ricciardo struggled to get out of his car and was then rushed to the hospital, the marshals were in charge of sending his car back safely to the AlphaTauri garage. It was evident Ricciardo wasn’t feeling too good about himself. To make his day better, the Turn 3 marshals taped a pack of Stroopwafels—a caramel-filled Dutch delicacy and a snack Ricciardo loves—to his car before getting it lifted. 


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With the Stroopwafels, they attached a note saying, “Hi Daniel. Hope your wrist is OK. We’d love to see you back in the car this weekend. Hope the Stroopwafels are in 1 piece. Kind regards from the Turn 3 marshals.” Although the marshals won’t get their wish of seeing Ricciardo back in the car, there’s no doubt they would’ve made his day with the heartfelt note. Even though he won’t be able to continue his bid for that second Red Bull seat and his “fairytale ending” this weekend, Ricciardo would sure hope he’s not lost every chance of doing so.


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Do you feel Daniel Ricciardo could’ve reacted quicker had he not been out of the sport for six months, or would it have happened to any driver? 

WATCH THIS STORY | Is Oscar Piastri Already Justifying His Talent By Performing Better Than Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren?


Written by:

Aditi Krishnan


One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Aishwary Gaonkar