Following an extremely difficult first half of the 2021 season, Daniel Ricciardo took a stunning victory at last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. It was the eighth win in Formula One for the Australian and his first with McLaren. Sunday's win was McLaren's first since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix as they scored a memorable 1-2.
Ricciardo says hard work, even if it didn’t show in the results before the summer break, was key to the breakthrough at Monza.
“It is the product of let’s say hard work, the first part of the season,” he said.
“It’s been playing catch-up because it’s started a bit on the back foot. That’s through no fault of anyone’s, it’s just me trying to adapt to the car and the team.
“They’ve been really supportive throughout and I think that’s been some of the internal frustration, that everything around me feels great it’s just the results weren’t there to kind of complete the picture.
“So then August break, just getting away from it, I think was a chance to just like also decompress, switch off and reset. And coming into Belgium I just already felt like personally more kind of game for it. And with that I kind of drew some confidence.
“Then at Monza I felt like from first practice the car felt pretty good. I was like alright ‘we could be on here’. And then again, drew more confidence from that.”
Ricciardo confessed he was gutted after ending up P5 in normal qualifying, just 0.006s slower than teammate Norris and 0.029s of Verstappen in P3 respectively. The Aussie says it fuelled him even more for the next two days.
“On Friday evening I was pretty dark after the qualifying,” said the 32-year-old. “It was like just something in me. I was like, I just don’t want to be here anymore in terms of I want to win, I want to be the guy. Being close, it just fuelled me more than anything.
“It was good and the team were like ‘it’s a good session, you should be happy’. And I appreciate that relative to this year it was a good session.
“But that’s when the competitor in me just really came out. I can’t even explain it, but it was just like something like a burning feeling inside of me. And I was just like, no, it’s not good enough. I was like ‘blinkers on’ for the rest of the weekend.
“It’s easy to say now because I won but honestly there was something that came over me, particularly after Friday evening. I was I guess a man on a mission.”
Asked if it was different to every other race weekend so far in 2021, the Australian agreed.
“It has been, yeah, at least to that level, that kind of intensity,” he said.
“I’ve definitely carried confidence through race weekends and it has been there at moments for sure, but not to that level.”
Ricciardo “believes” he doesn’t need to get so fired up in the future as he did after qualifying at Monza to get the best out of himself, achieving more wins and great results in the process.
“I want to be there because just the competitor in me,” he said.
“I like that fire in me. The chip on the shoulder, I like that feeling. It makes you feel alive and it’s a good angry. You take a lot of energy from that anger.
“After the weekend I don’t think it’s like I need to tap into that place all the time to get it out of myself.
“I think I drew a lot of confidence from that weekend.
“Also the team a lot of them have supported me and believed in me from the start but the weekend kind of just reassured everyone. So I think as a team moving forward, we can be quietly confident.”