Daniel Ricciardo had his best weekend of the season so far at Barcelona, starting in seventh place and ending in sixth for a joint best result in 2021, that allowed him to outscore Lando Norris for the first time since he joined McLaren.
However, he is still getting to know the full potential of his MCL35M. In order to be able to fully deliver on track, he has to adjust his usual driving style to his new challenger, which, as he had declared during the Bahrein testing, it's quite unsuited to.
Ricciardo admitted, after the Spanish GP, that McLaren is being extremely helpful, with his engineers still instructing him on how to drive the car to get the best performances out of it.
The Australian driver compares the support and the feedback received so far by his race engineer Tom Stallard to "being back in school".
"It's like being a beginner all over again, being tutored every corner!” laughed Ricciardo. “’Good job, do that better, okay, improve a bit more here.’"
He's pleased with his team's backing, and he's working on taking account of McLaren's characteristics into his usual driving style:
"Obviously the feedback I'm getting from the team is good and they're obviously trying to get me into some good habits with this car and the characteristics. So things like that, whether it's braking or the way you get on throttle, it's something unique and I guess I'm still having to be a little bit conscious about that and teach myself enough that it does become natural.”
A key factor in his good performance was his experience at the Spanish track. During the race, he added, he felt satisfied in most part of the circuit, but he still has to improve his pace in some turns:
"Barcelona's so familiar, and I think some familiarity is good for me right now to kind of get up to speed. I was certainly more comfortable. Say if there's 15 corners on this track, 10 of them I would say I was feeling good in, but there's still a handful that I know I can execute better [and] I know over time I'll start to find those extra little half tenths here and there to get a bit more out of the car."
The main issue he has to tackle at the moment, Ricciardo added, are longer corners, which don't come to him as naturally as the faster ones:“It still does require a bit of thought in some corners. I think the quicker corners are a bit easier: you kind of just chuck it in and hold on."
Nevertheless, the former Red Bull driver isn't extremely worried about it, as he's focusing on "schooling himself" to fully adapt to McLaren's peculiarities:
“But these kind of longer corners where you're in the corner for a long time and having to be quite delicate and precise, that's where... the car is sensitive, and it's working well in some ways but not well the others, and I think I'm certainly trying to programme myself to basically learn how to drive faster. So I'm back at school!”