Daniel Ricciardo needs all the help he can get from his new McLaren colleagues as he seeks to address the problems that have plagued him this season.
Ricciardo finished ninth in Portugal on Monday morning (AEST) — an impressive result considering he started 16th on the grid after a horror day of qualifying saw him knocked out in Q1.
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The Aussie F1 star left Portimao with points but once again he was outclassed by teammate Lando Norris on race day, continuing a worrying trend across the year’s first three grands prix.
Ricciardo has acknowledged he will take time getting used to the intricacies of a new car after leaving Renault at the end of 2020 and he’s optimistic about the lessons he learned in Portugal, which will help him provide feedback to his team about how they can improve performance.
“I feel like I’ve got quite a bit of feedback for the team,” he told McLaren’s media department after the race. “I definitely feel some things which are holding me back in terms of what I want to do with the car, and every time I try it, it doesn’t quite hold on.
“There are some things we can immediately address with the set-up, and then with some updates to come.”
Ricciardo expressed a similar sentiment about tweaking the car’s set-up in his post-race TV interview.
“Some strong points, some parts of the race with promise and some others with not so much. But I feel like those actually highlighted some things in the car which I’m still asking for,” he said.
“I think we can find some (extra pace) with set-up and not necessarily with an upgrade.
“There’s a few things I understood today that I can probably just finetune the car to help in these areas.
“Five days’ time we’re back in the car and maybe try a few different set-ups.”
Life in orange is taking some getting used to.Source:Getty Images
‘No excuses’: Ricciardo set straight
Ricciardo has now clocked up seventh, sixth and ninth-placed finishes, falling behind Norris in the first two races in Bahrain and Italy after dominating the Brit in qualifying.
McLaren boss Zak Brown is content to give Ricciardo all the time he needs to find his feet at his new home, but not everyone is so sure the Honey Badger can hold onto that lifeline for long.
Former F1 driver turned broadcaster and analyst, Martin Brundle, compared Ricciardo to Carlos Sainz, who left McLaren for Ferrari this season. Sainz is two points behind the West Australian in the drivers’ standings, but McLaren had a far superior car to the Prancing Horse last season, so Ricciardo would be expected to have a wider buffer than he does.
“This is a very difficult time for Daniel, but form is temporary and class and speed is permanent,” Brundle said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll get back to where he needs to be.
“There are no excuses of, ‘I’m new to a team’ or ‘I don’t really know this track’. Carlos Sainz has dialled straight into the Ferrari for example.
“But what he needs to make sure is that famous chin of his and the flip top smile doesn’t hit the ground. And I think he’s got enough experience and certainly more than enough talent to pull that around quickly.”
Ricciardo has some lofty goals.Source:Getty Images
What’s holding Ricciardo back?
After his qualifying debacle, McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl reflected on why he thought Ricciardo was struggling in comparison to Norris.
“I think in the end it’s minor things that probably get exaggerated in low-grip conditions, like we have them here and like we also had in Imola with the drying track,” Seidl said.
“We have seen in the practice session, that (Ricciardo bombing out in Q1) is definitely not the gap he’s having to Lando at the moment. He was just trying to put the lap together and it’s not easy to get the laps in here with the traffic, with the wind and everything with the low-grip conditions.
“We simply need to stay calm, analyse, work through it, and I’m sure it will come.”
Ricciardo reiterated it was all about finding a groove with his new piece of machinery.
“I’m trying to still exploit the strengths of the car, but also driving around the weaknesses,” he said. “There’s things that I used to do maybe to let’s say go quicker in the entry of a corner that might not work now. It might tip it over the edge, so to speak.
“So it’s fine tuning kind of everything: like the way you turn in, the way you brake and all of that.”
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