F1 has been an obsession of mine for quite a few years, probably since Damon Hill tangled with Schumacher on a tight Adelaide corner. While the Internet has helped bridge the gap between myself and F1, my home town of Perth, in Australia, has always been so removed from the thrill of F1 racing. Imagine my excitement when Perth born Daniel Ricciardo started to make waves on the way to the pinnacle of open wheel racing.
I learnt of Daniel as he ground out success in Formula Renault. I urged him on, hopeful his connections with Red Bull would help him find a drive in F1. I was so proud when Daniel drove on to the Albert Park race track in 2011 as Toro Rosso's reserve and Practice 1 test driver. Again when Daniel participated in his first F1 race in Great Britain for struggling HRT I was beaming. Watching someone from my tiny, out of the way home make it in one of the most competitive sports was amazing!
Tonight I was at a basketball game. My local team, the Perth Wildcats, was beating the visitors from Melbourne. I've been a regular at games for quite a few years and love the Wildcats almost as much as I love F1. Many local celebrities frequent the basketball. Former Chicago Bull, Luc Longley, sits with brother in law Ben Elton. Comedians rub shoulders with blonde weather girls, wealthy flirts flex their bank accounts at other wealthy flirts and nobody cares they are there. But tonight, someone else was there.
The court announcer spoke over the three quarter time entertainment. Like he regularly does, he mentioned a few famous names enjoying the game tonight. Wide eyed, I stopped when I realised that amongst the 13 thousand strong crowd was Daniel Ricciardo! The boy from the northern suburbs making it with the rest of the world. So preoccupied, I glazed over, unaware of the finishing basketball game.
With 13 thousand people around I accepted it was most unlikely I would get to meet Daniel. Despite the futility, I scanned the crowd while I made my way to the foyer. Waiting for my partner to join me, I found a spot against the wall where I could scan the faces as people made their way out of the arena. That's when it happened. That's when I saw Daniel Ricciardo!
He came out of the toilets and immediately I recognised him. A bearded Daniel paused a moment while his family caught up, before walking towards me. I was beaming, quite definitely staring as Daniel became aware of me, the same way you're aware of someone trying to hand you a flyer in an arcade. As you would with the flyer, Daniel attempted the no look pass. Awkwardly I asked him if I could shake his hand. Having just exited the toilet, and failing to dry adequately, Daniel wiped his hand against his pants pocket before extending it. His handshake was that of a fit sportsman. Immediately I could tell he was lean and strong. No signs of a relaxed pre season, Daniel is clearly business all year round.
Just like that, the moment was over. Daniel never broke stride. Now accustomed to waiting fans, he keeps moving like a pro. It was less than 3 seconds but it was pretty cool, to me anyway.