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Formula 1

Ricciardo’s McLaren adaptation mission enters crucial weeks

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Daniel Ricciardo hopes that a combination of the return to more open circuits and the upcoming Formula 1 triple-header will hasten his progress in adapting to the McLaren-Mercedes MCL35M.

The 31-year-old has struggled to extract the most from the car since his switch to McLaren from Renault.

Though he felt intensive simulator work between the Monaco and Azerbaijan Grands Prix helped understand the driving style demanded by the car, a qualifying crash meant it was hard to judge his progress in Baku.

Despite being confident he knows what he needs to do to close the gap to team-mate Lando Norris having finished behind him in five out of six races so far this year, Ricciardo feels he needs more track time to master the demands of the car in the corner-entry phase.

He’s pinpointed the upcoming trio of the French Grand Prix and the two races in Austria as being precisely what he needs to accelerate that work given the natures of the circuits and the quickfire calendar.

“The frustrating thing is, I kind of know what it needs but it’s just so hard to get it right, it’s such a small window,” said Ricciardo when asked about his progress by The Race.

“There will be a lap where I can do it, but to repeat that 55 laps consecutively or whatever, that’s where it’s hard.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Baku 2021

“That’s why I’m glad just to finish the races and keep trialling-and-erroring and all that sort of stuff.

“I’m looking forward to some open circuits – circuits that are a bit more forgiving of mistakes and that’ll probably fast-track my learning.

“And there’s also a triple-header just to keep some rhythm.”

Ricciardo was happier with his driving in Baku despite his crash in the closing stages of Q2 and bagged his fifth points finish in six starts for McLaren in ninth place.

He has so far racked up 26 points this season compared to Norris’s 66 with best finishes of sixth at Imola and Barcelona.

But the slower corners that predominate in Monaco and Azerbaijan appeared to lay bare his struggles in the braking/turn-in phase.

The run of five races across seven weekends prior to the August break, which also includes Silverstone and the Hungaroring, will give Ricciardo the opportunity he needs to refine his style.

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He also retains the confidence of McLaren, with team principal Andreas Seidl backing the progress Ricciardo had made in Azerbaijan despite his qualifying crash.

“It was good simply to see that the hard work Daniel has put in together with the team team last week was paying off,” said Seidl of Ricciardo’s underlying improvement.

“He definitely felt a lot more comfortable in the car.”

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Baku 2021

There’s no doubt Ricciardo will improve as he becomes better tuned to the demands of the McLaren, especially as he is focusing his work on adapting his style rather than trying to force the car to cohere well with his inputs.

The challenge now is to close the gap to Norris who has had a strong and consistent season over the next five races and set himself up for a better second half of the season.

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