Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo has been named Laureus’ breakthrough sports star of the year for his stellar debut season with Red Bull Racing in 2014.
The Perth-born driver was the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race in 2014, claiming three grands prix and five other podium finishes.
His award win came on the same day as two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen lauded the 25-year-old Aussie as a “great driver” and a “great team player”.
Hakkinen said he was enjoying watching Daniel Ricciardo race, despite his team’s on-track struggles.
“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.”
Ricciardo’s Red Bull Racing, whose Renault-powered cars have fallen well behind the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari this season.
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, who he likened 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 he 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.”
2015 Laureus winners
World sportsman of the year
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) – Tennis
World sportswoman of the year
Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) – Athletics
World team of the year
Germany (men’s) – Football
World breakthrough of the year
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) – Formula One
World comeback of the year
Schalk Burger (South Africa) – Rugby Union
World sportsperson of the year with a disability
Tatyana McFadden (US) – Wheelchair racing/cross-country skiing
World action sportsperson of the year
Alan Eustance (US) – Skydiving
– with AAP