Daniel Ricciardo joined an exclusive club of F1 greats at the weekend when he journeyed to the tiny village of Brisighella in Italy, close to the great Imola circuit, where he became the 21st recipient of the Trofeo Bandini.
Named after the legendary Ferrari F1 driver, Lorenzo Bandini, whose childhood home was Brisighella, the prize is awarded each year to the racing driver who has most impressed the judging panel over the previous 12 months.
With three grand prix wins in his first season with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and as the only driver to break Mercedes' grip on the top step of the podium this season, Dan's superb performances were enough to convince the judges that his name should be the next to feature on the trophy beside such stellar names as Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher.
"I was quite overwhelmed with the reception I received at the event. The Italians really love their motorsport," said Dan of the event. "To be awarded with the Lorenzo Bandini trophy was an honour and to join the many great drivers on that list makes me proud."
The ceremony itself was a suitably grand occasion. On Sunday at around 3pm Daniel was driven from his hotel to the main square where he was greeted by hordes of F1 fans and also by a band of drummers and trumpeters dressed in full medieval costume as well as knights in full chain mail and armour!
Before accepting the award Daniel took time out to greet fans and sign autographs. And there were plenty of autographs to sign as well. Dan's well know to the F1 fans of the Emilia-Romagna region thanks to his two years at Toro Rosso, whose headquarters are just 10 minutes down the road from Brisighella in Faenza. Daniel's Italian heritage also came into play and though a fair proportion of the fans who thronged the main square of the village were dressed in Ferrari red, they greeted Australian-Italian Dan like a long, lost son.
There was an even greater sense of 'homecoming' when later Dan was introduced to Ridolfo Basilio the mayor of Ficarra, the tiny commune in Sicily from which Dan's grandparents and his dad Joe emigrated. Basilio presented him with a medal of the town and a parcel of cakes baked especially for the Belgian GP winner. Dan also later hooked up with members of the 'Fan Club Ricciardo' from the Sicilian town who had travelled overnight by coach to meet their hero. Naturally, Dan was introduced to a host of long-lost relatives!
Daniel received the prestigious trophy from Brisighella's mayor David Missiroli, with 80-year-old Gabriella Bandini, sister of the legendary Italian racer in attendance. The presentation was followed by a fireworks display and then Daniel and the other dignitaries, including former Ferrari and current Mercedes designer Aldo Costa and Giancarlo Minardi, former owner of the team that became Toro Rosso, where whisked off to the village's Parco Ugonia, where some 270 guests enjoy a fantastic dinner beside the beautifully lit fountain and featuring local specialities and wine.