Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that it’s been a tough season so far since his move to McLaren at the start of 2021.
The Australian gambled on moving from the former Renault works team after a successful time in 2020, but has yet to fully find his feet at Woking alongside Lando Norris.
Although he’s finished in the points in seven of the nine races so far, he’s more than 60 points behind Norris who has been on the podium three times already this season.
But Ricciardo said he wasn’t going to get caught up in unhelpful comparisons with his younger colleague.
“It’s obviously for whatever reason been a very unexpected and difficult season so far, just from a pace point of view,” he admitted in an interview with Motorsport.com this week.
“I guess the easiest way for me to kind of move forward is to accept that,” he acknowledged. “Did I expect more? Absolutely.
“Clearly there’s something that is missing,” he said. “[But] I feel good in the car, especially the last three weeks it’s felt better.
“Everything felt okay, it’s just not there on the stopwatch,” he said. “Maybe it’s just literally half a tenth in each corner and then I’m there.
“If I overlay my data from last week to this week, I’m doing a lot more things that this car requires,” he pointed out. “I feel like let’s say my McLaren driving improved a lot.
“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?
“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.
“I don’t want to say, what’s the word, wave the white flag, or succumb to whatever it is,” he added. “I’m just going to not really focus or lose too much energy on that, and just accept that he’s driving very well.
“I think at the moment, it’s Lando just having the pace he’s having, and obviously the speed.
“The speed is there in the car, so I think that gives the team a lot of motivation to push hard for next year, with new regulations.”
Qualifying has been a particular problem for Ricciardo in recent weekends. he’s made it through to the final round only once in the last five races.
But despite starting from 13th on the grid in Austria, Ricciardo went on to finish in seventh place which was crucial in helping McLaren extend its lead over Ferrari in the battle for third place in the constructors championship.
“It was just the day I needed,” he agreed. “For sure I would say for the team 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,” he lamented. “The points are – I don’t want to say irrelevant, but the important thing for me was just have fun, be in some battles, and put myself in a good position.
“Obviously it’s been hard to fully enjoy it when the results have not been there, so I took a bit more fulfilment from from the race,” he said. “That’s what I did, and the end result was some points, which is nice. I just enjoyed it.”
The early laps at the Red Bull Ring last week saw him get the better of George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc – but he admits it was hard tro remember it all.
“I don’t know if it’s I’m getting old, but the first laps are a blur!,” he joked. “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 [I was] out of track position from qualifying.
“It was a fun race, I saw people get squeezed off, I heard there were some penalties,” he said. “We’ve got the big screens and a lot of long straights, you can kind of see what’s going on.
“Sometimes I’d see a replay of someone get squeezed, and then I’d see their radio get broadcast. Hopefully the fans were entertained!”
And Ricciardo is hoping that next week’s sprint race format will offer fans even more entertainment – and may even play into his own strengths.
“The way my starts have been – the last three races, I think I’ve made minimum two places every first lap – having a sprint qualifying actually means I’ll probably start further up the grid on Sunday!
“I’m happy to have two race starts,” he continued. “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.
“So I would say right now the mindset would be just a normal approach, try to attack when possible, and make the most of it.”
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