No, it wasn't just a lack of confidence. When Daniel Ricciardo finished his first race with McLaren in Bahrain, on Sunday, he couldn't really explain what happened and how to justify his seventh place against his teammate fourth placement.
The Aussie was always addressed like the "one who made the best choice" in the 2020 drivers market: McLaren was, on paper, the team who could improve the most compared to its competitors, thanks to new engine supplier, Mercedes. The Woking team had, then, the chance to redesign the car's rear, earning the chance to fight again for third place in the constructor championship or more.
Daniel Ricciardo had, like all his rivals, just 1 day and a half to adapt to his new car and learn about it as much as possible. To adapt to such cars is not easy, as we saw with Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Vettel and all the other drivers who changed team from 2020. Having a team mate like Lando Norris, also, doesn't make things easier, as the Brit had a tight fight with Sainz last year.
"I wasn’t that impressed with my race. We couldn’t find the pace, so every time I tried to get a bit more out of it, it wasn’t really there - said Ricciardo on Sunday after the race - I couldn’t really extract the pace from the car and when I did, I could [only] do it for one or two laps.”
After all the debriefs, Andreas Seidl, McLaren team principal, reveals that Ricciardo's car suffered floor damage after contact on lap 4 with Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri. After the Safety Car restart, Daniel was attempting to follow Norris, but then connected to the Faenza's challenger and damaged his floor, while Gasly lost his front wing and was forced to pit.
The Aussie managed to continue the race till the chequered flag, but couldn't find the pace to match Norris. Everyone thought lack of experience was the reason behind it, but Seidl now explains what happened.
“Post-race we found damage to Daniel’s floor from the impact of Pierre running into the back of his car at the beginning of the race, the level of damage cost a considerable amount of downforce" reveals the team principal.
“Despite the performance loss, Daniel used his experience to cope with the issues and score important points for the team. We now look forward to the next race" he added.
Despite the issue, McLaren scored points with both his drivers and stands now third in the constructors' championship.
“I’m still very happy with how the entire weekend went with Daniel, very happy we finished in good points, and it was a good start,” said Seidl.
“Finishing the first race of the season in P4 and P7 was exactly what we were looking for and what we wanted to have for the first race, double points for the constructors’ championship, so it was encouraging to see."