Formula One legend Mika Hakkinen says he is enjoying watching Daniel Ricciardo race, despite his team’s on-track struggles.
The former two-time world champion lauded the Australian’s commitment to Red Bull Racing, whose Renault-powered cars have fallen well behind the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari this season.
Ricciardo won three grands prix last year and on Wednesday night was honoured with the Laureus world breakthrough of the year award at a ceremony in Shanghai.
But 2015 hasn’t been so kind – his best result so far this season is sixth in Melbourne. He finished 10th in Malaysia and ninth at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
But Hakkinen still had high praise for the 25-year-old.
“I think he’s a great driver,” he said.
“I’m enjoying watching his driving and his attitude.
“I think he’s a great team player. I think the team and team managers are happy to have him.
“He’s (going) flat out.”
The former McLaren man likened Ricciardo to his protege and fellow Finn Valteri Bottas, who’s been a standout for Williams since the new hybrid engines were introduced last season.
“The kind of personality he is, what kind of talent he has – it’s a pleasure to work with and support a driver like that,” Hakkinen said of Bottas.
“Ricciardo is also. He’s a fantastic driver.”
Ricciardo is in Bahrain preparing for Sunday’s grand prix, but in a video message played at Shanghai’s Grand Theatre said it was a privilege to be recognised by Laureus for his achievements last year.
“2014 is a year I’ll remember for a long time – it was definitely a breakthrough in my mind as well,” he said.
“Standing on the top step of the podium a few times was icing on the cake.”