McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo had another Formula One Grand Prix of 2022 to forget this past weekend in Spain. The much-loved Aussie could only cross the line in P12 despite a promising qualifying having meant he started in 9th. The lack of performance from Ricciardo’s MCL36 was such that it has left the Honey Badger scratching his head as he hopes there was something wrong with his car after having had so many issues trying to get up speed on race day.
For Daniel Ricciardo, his 2022 F1 season to date has been far from straightforward. Having tested positive for COVID-19 in Bahrain earlier this year, Ricciardo missed the final three days of pre-season testing and seems to have been playing catchup ever since. Daniel Ricciardo has attended all Grands Prix of the season but with six race weekends completed, a P6 in Melbourne at the Australian Grand Prix as well as a P6 in the first sprint of the season (during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix) are the only highlights so far.
Unfortunately, Daniel Ricciardo’s P12 in Barcelona means that it is a fifth Grand Prix of the season which has seen the Aussie out of the points. Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s teammate, Lando Norris, has 39 points to his name in the F1 Drivers’ standings and has been a huge factor in placing McLaren 4th in the F1 Constructors’ standings on 50 points. Norris’ P8 on Sunday was all the more impressive seeing how unwell he was and as described by Ricciardo as looking ‘pretty rough all weekend.’
Having qualified p9 in Spain, it looked as though Daniel Ricciardo’s luck was finally about to change. Despite being up to P8 at one point (following the puncture to Lewis Hamilton) it was not long before Ricciardo started falling backwards through the pack.
Speaking after the Spanish Grand Prix to select media, which included Motorlat, Daniel Ricciardo reflected on another disappointing race and explained how he hoped there was an issue with his car as a way to explain his performance – or rather lack of.
"A long afternoon, one of the longer ones I've had in recent times," Ricciardo confessed. “It wasn’t like there was a slow stint, it was a slow race from the start. One where I basically couldn't use any grip, and if I tried to use it, I was just sliding and slow and tried to be conservative on the tyres, and I just had to drive too slow to do that. I'm sure everyone complained 'cause it's hot, poor track conditions in terms of the heat but let's say with that midfield fight - I had no fight.”
Daniel Ricciardo would explain that he was simply operating on a lower level of grip than everyone and his past record shows that he is not the type of person to look for excuses. Nevertheless, the winner of last season’s Italian Grand Prix could not understand why he was so far off the pace. However, this was an issue he realised early on in Sunday’s race as he explained to the media that he could tell he did not have the car beneath him to compete with others.
“I felt early on you know, I got up to 8th I think on lap one. Obviously, there was a few things going on around me. I can remember Hamilton maybe getting a puncture or something on the first lap so yeah, we're like a good track position, relatively good track position, but already I think from lap three I knew that I was going to be doing some defending pretty soon. But then of course, like, we knew it was two or three stops, so I thought ‘OK maybe we'll pit, get a bit more pace on a different set of tyres’ and we were kind of nowhere from the start to the end.” Ricciardo stated.
Daniel Ricciardo crossed the finished line this past Sunday in P12 and over a lap behind race winner Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, with his teammate Lando Norrris finishing P8, the question was posed to Ricciardo as to whether there was anything vastly different between the setup of the two cars?
"There's always little bits here and there, but to be honest, I hope to find something else," said Ricciardo. "I hope that it's, 'oh, wow, this was wrong', or this was something. Because when it's setup, you could say, 'oh, there's a couple of tenths'. I haven't seen the times yet, but I know that it's all just slow, really slow. I'm sure, at times, I was probably a second, if not more, slower, so this felt more than setup, so hopefully there's something.”
Sunday’s Barcelona Grand Prix was the 216th Grand Prix in the pinnacle of motorsport for Daniel Ricciardo. Having tried to utilise all of this experience in the cockpit on Sunday to no avail – this has given Ricciardo even more reason to believe that clearly something was amiss with his MCL36.
“Obviously, I’m experienced enough now to try throughout the race different things. As I said, try to push on the tyre, try to be conservative and approach the corner in different ways but the net lap time was the same each time I crossed the line, whether I used the tyres or not so one of those ones where you're just kind of scratching your head."
The saying in F1 always seems to be ‘you’re only as good as your last race’. The good news for Daniel Ricciardo is that he does not have to wait long for the next Grand Prix to come along. Better still, it is the Monaco Grand Prix, an event he was famously victorious at in 2018. Also, due to it being a circuit which is notoriously difficult to overtake at, should Ricciardo perform as well in qualifying as he did recently in Spain – he could be in a great position for race day whether his car has the grip or not. Formula One moves fast, and Daniel Ricciardo is one of the quickest racers out there. The 2022 F1 season has only just begun – and Daniel Ricciardo is far from finished.