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Daniel Ricciardo 200 races, Red Bull Helmut Marko call that gave him HRT drive

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Daniel Ricciardo will reach the rare milestone of 200 Formula One Grand Prix starts when racing resumes this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Australian will become just the 22nd driver to accomplish the feat, and only the second from Australia after Mark Webber raced in 217 Grands Prix.

Just 10 years earlier, Ricciardo was in the kitchen with his family when his phone rang with an unexpected call that would change his life forever.

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Ricciardo was at the time an exciting F1 prospect who had made his way through Europe’s open-wheeler ranks with the backing of energy drink giants Red Bull.

By 2011, he was still slowly learning the trade as an eager 22-year-old who was test driver for Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri), then fronted by Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari.

But poor performances from the duo gave way to speculation that Toro Rosso’s driver line-up would be changed mid-season, opening the door to Ricciardo.

“The circumstances were crazy,” Ricciardo told In The Fast Lane podcast. “I was a Toro Rosso reserve driver that year and I knew there were some talks about were they going to keep the current Toro Rosso line-up for the whole season?

“So I was like, ‘if I’m going to get a chance halfway through the year it’s going to be in a Toro Rosso’.

“And then, I guess probably one good result later from one of the guys there and it was like, ‘oh, no we are going to keep them, but we still want to put Daniel in F1’.”

Without any drives available, Red Bull took the step to pay struggling minnows HRT to give Ricciardo his F1 debut halfway through the season.

Japanese Grand Prix CANCELLED | 00:38

Ricciardo was unaware of the plan ahead of the British Grand Prix until he received a call from Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who shared a tense relationship with Webber and later displayed favouritism towards Max Verstappen.

“It was wild, but I do remember being in the house I was living in England, and my parents were there, and I saw Dr Marko on the phone and I was like: ‘this is going to be interesting’,” Ricciardo remembered.

“I walked into the living room, he told me, and I walked back into the kitchen where my parents were, and my mum knew straight away, as a mother knows, they just know that look when something is up.

“So she was like ‘what’s up?’ (I said), ‘I’m racing F1 next weekend!”

Ricciardo spent his debut at the back of the field, but has since gone on to win seven Grands Prix and drive for five F1 teams (HRT, Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren).

He remembered his first Grand Prix as a whirlwind experience, saying: “The seat fit, trying to learn the team, and then I think it was wet as well so we were qualifying in the rain, it was a lot.

“I don’t think I had driven on Pirelli’s yet either, so it was my first time on Pirelli’s, which were very different from the Bridgestone’s I had tried.

“There was a lot going on, but hey, what an experience.”

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McLaren boss Zak Brown ‘wouldn’t be shocked’ if Lewis Hamilton quits before 2022 season

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McLaren CEO Zak Brown says he “wouldn’t be shocked” if Lewis Hamilton chose to quit Formula One before the start of the 2022 season.

The seven-time world champion has kept his cards close to his chest since he missed out on last year’s title to Max Verstappen, who overtook him on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.

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Speculation has been rife about Hamilton’s future after he was beaten to the world championship for the first time since 2016.

The 36-year-old and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff snubbed the end-of-season F1 gala, even though they were required to attend.

Hamilton, who is contracted with Mercedes to the end of 2023, is yet to publicly confirm whether he will race on this year, but Wolff is hopeful his charge will return to the grid.

Brown, who is the boss of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton called it quits and walked away from F1.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted he’s coming back,” he said.

“My personal opinion is he’s going to (continue racing), but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration and his anger.

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future is up in the air. (Photo by Kamran Jebreili – Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Maybe he hasn’t made a decision and maybe what he’s doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure, because once that decision is made, that decision is made.

“So, I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it. I just personally think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.”

Ultimately Brown believes Hamilton will continue to race in F1, driven by the desire to win a record-breaking eighth world championship.

“I think he’ll be back,” he said.

“He’s a racing driver. I think he’s at the top of his game.

“I’m sure he’s very angry, but I think race car drivers want to race and I think he’s a fighter, and he’ll want to come back and try to win an eighth championship.

“I don’t think he’s ready to retire; this is my own personal opinion, I’ve not talked to him, because once you hang it up, you hang it up.

“I guess you could come back as some have done, but I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up and I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.”

Hamilton lost the 2021 world championship to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)Source: AFP

Brown’s comments come after former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone predicted Hamilton will retire before the 2022 season, which begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.

The Brit reportedly also reportedly ignored messages from newly-elected FIA president Mahamaaed Ben Sulayem as time ticks on towards the start of the 2022 season.

Hamilton is expected to attend the virtual launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car on February 18.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the dramatic season finale in Abu Dhabi has continued.

The FIA, F1’s governing body, will reveal the results of their investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on March 18, just two days before the season gets underway in Bahrain.

There have been calls for the FIA to sack Australian race director Michael Masi, after he came under fire for his use of the safety car in the dying stages of the race.

Many F1 fans criticised Masi for his decision to move only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to set up a final lap shootout between the two rivals.

Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook Hamilton to win the world title.

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F1 news 2022, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, 2021 title, appeal, decision date, new season calendar, full race schedule

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Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton must wait two more months for motorsport chiefs to reveal the results of their inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where the Dutchman clinched the 2021 world title.

Governing body, the FIA, said Thursday that the outcome will not be revealed until March 18, just two days before the 2022 season gets underway in Bahrain.

Hamilton was poised to capture a record-breaking eighth world title at the Abu Dhabi finale in December before a controversial safety car restart allowed Verstappen to pass the British driver on the last lap.

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The incident has led to speculation that a disillusioned 37-year-old Hamilton may be prepared to turn his back on Formula One.

On Thursday, the FIA said that team chiefs as well as representatives of the ruling body will meet on January 19 to discuss the use of the safety car.

Drivers will also be brought into the discussions, it said.

“The outcome of the detailed analysis will be presented to the F1 Commission in February, and final decisions will be announced at the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on 18 March,” added the FIA.

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F1 news 2022, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, retirement, quit, latest, new contract, 2022 calendar, season

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Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future still remains unclear with just 69 days to go until the 2022 season begins as the FIA’s investigation into the how the 2021 season ended now thought to be key in his decision making.

The FIA has pledged to investigate the controversial circumstances around the final lap of the 2021 season which saw Max Verstappen pip Hamilton to the world title in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes withdrew their appeal against the result after the FIA announced they would launch an investigation into the events surrounding the safety car procedures.

Hamilton made a cryptic reference to his future in his post-race interview with former teammate Jenson Button.

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“We gave it everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing. We’ll see about next year,” he said.

This pledge is now reportedly crucial in whether Hamilton decides to get into a Formula 1 car again, according to Sky Sports, and the delay in its findings are seemingly impacting the delay in the seven-time world champion’s decision.

Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater reported: “With 69 days to go until the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, it is still unclear whether Lewis Hamilton will be on the grid.

“In terms of Hamilton coming back to Formula 1, having the appetite to do so and getting over the ‘disillusionment’ that his team boss Toto Wolff said he felt after Abu Dhabi, the onus is on the FIA to deliver on the pledge they made before Christmas to investigate the happenings on that final lap and to come up with some findings.

“It is understood that Mercedes want to see something tangible. It’s been put to me like this: the longer this drags on then the worse the Lewis Hamilton situation is, and that is from a senior source.”

The 23-race 2022 season begins on March 18 with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars beginning on February 23.

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