An episode of Top Gear is very much like an issue of Playboy in that the celebrity interviews can be skipped over if you want to get right to the exciting stuff. Doing so, however, means missing out on an insightful part of the show that has its own nail-biting thrills when it comes time to see how the guests do around the Top Gear test track. This is made even more exciting when Formula 1 drivers visit, just as breakout star Daniel Ricciardo proved on last night’s episode.
For those unfamiliar with the segment, celebrity guests appearing on the show are placed in a “reasonably priced car” for laps around the test track after they do an interview with Host Jeremy Clarkson. When that guest is a Formula 1 driver, their times are posted on a separate board and they all drive the same Suzuki Liana the show has had since season 1.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has something to prove with each of the top three drivers topping the F1 board. He played second fiddle to four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel last year, before beating him in 14 times in 19 races. Mark Webber is the fellow Australian he replaced, and Lewis Hamilton holds the current world champion spot that Ricciardo is gunning for.
The reason this seemingly innocuous part of the show gets exciting (for drivers as well as viewers) is that, apart from any weather conditions, driving the same Liana puts them on equal footing. Excuses like blown diffusers tend to go out the window at that point.
If you don’t have it DVRed and can’t wait to see how he did, here’s the result: Daniel Ricciardo now tops the board at 1:42.2. This knocks Hamilton’s 1:42.9 down a peg and gives Vettel yet another reason to despise him by trouncing his 1:44.0 time.
Ricciardo’s confident about what this season will bring, with his focus to wrestle the championship title away from Hamilton. Vettel is now very much a rival, piloting a new car for a new team hungry for victory: Ferrari. We thought we were excited for Formula 1 this year already, but this just kicked our eagerness into overdrive.