Daniel Ricciardo is using a different driving style as McLaren’s Formula 1 car is “a little unique” and he is waiting for updates to tune the car more to his liking.
Ricciardo has been overshadowed by team-mate Lando Norris in his first two grands prix as a McLaren driver and admitted at Imola he was missing a small amount of performance as he adjusted to his new team after two years with Renault.
The first day of practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix has been more encouraging for Ricciardo, as while McLaren appears to be slightly less competitive in the tight midfield fight at Algarve Ricciardo was still eighth-fastest and fared better than Norris.
More importantly for Ricciardo, he said he “felt like from lap one this morning everything was a bit more familiar”.
“It’s starting to feel like my car,” he said. “The confidence is getting there and the understanding of the car is getting there. Today was definitely a step forward.”
Ricciardo told Sky Sports F1 he was now feeling like he could “hang it out a little bit more” and that the key to that has been working hard to adjust to the MCL35M’s characteristics.
As well as switching to a new team and getting comfortable in a new car, Ricciardo has changed power units and is driving with a Mercedes engine for the first time.
He believes improvising his style will be necessary until the team is able to update the car and influence its characteristics.
“The car, at least the tendencies, reward a bit of a different technique, a bit of a different style and that’s from turning in to the way you use the brake and get back on throttle,” said Ricciardo.
“It’s a little unique, so I’ve been working on that in the simulator and trying to put that into display today.
“That was coming and I think naturally there, just getting more confidence as well with the way the car slides and moves.
“The general kind of characteristics of the car are what they are at the moment and I’m sure some corners I can use my style but it seems like the majority, the best way to drive it is a different style.
“I’m trying to let the guys know where the weaknesses are and how I’d like to drive the car and so we are trying to bring some updates to address that.
“But until then, I’ll just learn how to drive it as it is.”
Ricciardo said he is finding it difficult to be patient in his bid to improve at McLaren, even though he’s started ahead of Norris for each grand prix and finished the races in seventh and sixth.
However, with pre-season testing reduced to just three days and each driver only getting one-and-a-half days in the car, every driver adjusting to a new team is struggling more than usual early on.
McLaren put a lot of effort into fast-tracking Ricciardo’s adaptation and he said he is being treated “like a rookie” as he bids to learn as much as possible, but also being reassured by CEO Zak Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl that they are happy with what he has done so far.
“It’s hard to take because I’m a veteran of this sport now and it’s like, why should I need time? And everyone’s kind of treating me like a rookie, but in a way it is true because I’m a rookie with this car and this environment,” he said.
“Obviously after Imola I was upset that I didn’t do better or couldn’t get more, but Andreas, Zak, they are all just like ‘chill dude. It’s just going to come’.
“I am trying not to chill too much but I’m aware that it’ll come eventually.”