McLaren’s drivers have had a notable pace difference, while Lando Norris has been consistent in points and could be said “at the top of his game”, Daniel Ricciardo has been struggling to get the best out of the car and achieve what he had in mind when joining the team. This can be seen during weekends, when Ricciardo feels he had a great performance, it is dimmed by what his teammate has done.
While the Australian driver is pleased to see Norris achieve great things with the MCL35M, it makes Daniel’s performance being questioned. But he is decided in not making the Brit’s pace a concerning thing.
“I feel like it's obviously for whatever reason been a very unexpected and difficult season so far, just from a pace point of view,” he told Motorsport.com after the race is Austria.
“And I guess the easiest way for me to kind of move forward is to accept that. Did I expect more? Absolutely. But I think if I every weekend go into it now expecting to be quicker than Lando, or whatever it is, I'm probably just going to end up resenting the sport, because clearly, it's going to take a bit more.
“I don't want to say, what's the word, wave the white flag, or succumb to whatever it is, I'm just going to not really focus or lose too much energy on that, and just accept that he's driving very well. The aim is to obviously get closer, and help the team out as well.”
He declares that it is easy to get lost with other things, so it is important to focus on what he is doing.
“I think I've just got to focus on myself, and then hopefully, I can keep chipping away at it.”
By Monaco and Baku, it was when Ricciardo recognized that the triple header races with two races at the same venue in closed racetracks (not city circuits), will be a great opportunity for him to get to know the car better and how to get the best put of it.
Daniel had a strong French Grand Prix weekend, where managed to get to P6 from a P10 at the start of the race, around 11.8 seconds behind his teammate. In the Styrian GP he started P13, and with a good first lap got up to P8, but an engine issue cost him places and ended up in 13th place as he got stuck in a DRS train.
Even though he lost places and finished that race outside of the points, it was a learning opportunity. After, in the Austrian GP he was able to fight and pick up some points for the team with a seventh place.
“Yeah, it was better,” he said. “I think it was just the day I needed. And for sure I would say for the team, the points, it was nice to get in seventh and get points for them.
“But I mean personally, right now obviously I'm not in a championship fight, so the points are, I don't want to say irrelevant, but I think the important thing for me was just have fun, be in some battles, and put myself in a good position.
“And that's what I did, and the end result was some points, which is nice. I just enjoyed it. Obviously it's been hard to fully enjoy it when the results have not been there, so I took a bit more fulfilment from the race.”
While he is still learning to get the first laps just right in the MCL35M, he managed to get past George Russell and Carlos Sainz before the safety car, and after, he got Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
“The first laps are a blur!” he smiled. “I remember getting George into turn seven, I don't remember much else, but I do remember I think on lap one I got two cars, and at the safety car restart I got two cars.
“So that was good, obviously moving forward, and I needed it because obviously out of track position from qualifying. I mean it was a fun race, I saw people get squeezed off, I heard there were some penalties.
“Because we've got the big screens and a lot of long straights, you can kind of see what's going on. So sometimes I'd see a replay of someone get squeezed, and then I'd see their radio get broadcast. Hopefully the fans were entertained!”
Ricciardo’s struggles were not forgotten that weekend, he did have a strong Sunday afternoon, but we cannot ignore the fact that his teammate crossed the finish line 40 seconds earlier. The driver’s struggle are continuing to be an input for his engineers, who together with Daniel are working to adapt his driving style.
“A little bit of the frustration was that I was pretty happy yesterday [in qualifying]. The car doesn't feel perfect, but it felt pretty good. It felt better than a 13th place car.
“So I think everything felt okay, it's just not there on the stopwatch. But from a feeling, it's getting better. Maybe it's just literally half a tenth in each corner. And then I'm there. I don't know, but it felt okay.”
And as he had hoped, the triple-header did give him the opportunity to learn more about the car and get more miles in.
“Absolutely. And even if I overlay my data from last week to this week, I'm doing a lot more things that this car requires. So I feel like let's say my McLaren driving improved a lot, and I think that was a bit of the kind of sadness from [qualifying], that unfortunately it didn't translate into lap time yet.
“So maybe it's still a bit conscious and I'm just spending too much energy trying to drive it like that. Maybe just a few more races and then it's more my subconscious, and then I can put the car more on the edge. Maybe it's that? We'll see.”
The incoming race is in the circuit where Ricciardo made his F1 debut with HRT 10 years ago: Silverstone circuit. The different thing this year is the sprint qualifying format, which Daniel hopes will play to one of his strengths.
“The way my starts have been, the last three races, I think I've made minimum two places every first lap. So having a sprint qualifying actually means I'll probably start further up the grid on Sunday! So I'm happy to have two race starts.
“I think probably you have to treat it like a race. If you're being complacent then ultimately, you're going to start Sunday further back, and then you're going to take all the risk on Sunday, and maybe risk the front wing then.
On the other side, he admits he has reservations about this new format:
“I mean pitstops make it fun, I've got used to obviously doing pitstops, and also it really gets the team involved.
“And if they execute a good pitstop, and if you undercut a car or something through a pitstop, everyone feels like they've contributed to that that victory or that result. I like the team element of it, but we'll see what it's like.”