It was not a bad debut for the iconic McLaren team for Daniel Ricciardo, as the Australian not only out-qualified teammate Norris but finished the race in seventh place. Still, the 31-year-old explained, that he struggled to get the maximum pace out of the MCL35M yesterday.
The McLaren MCL35M automobile undoubtedly showed the strongest pace of the midfield teams in yesterday’s 2021 F1 season-opener in Bahrain. Lando Norris finished the race in an impressive fourth place and also quickly overtook his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo who started in front of the Briton. The Australian driver admitted, that he could not maximize the performance of his new car, which is displayed in his 20-second gap to Norris.
Overall Ricciardo explained post-race, that he is happy with his first race weekend at McLaren. “I would say if I [take] the weekend as a whole, I’m pretty happy” were his words, but he also pointed out that he needed to improve, especially in the race. “But if I just focus on the race itself, I struggled quite a bit in the race actually. I couldn’t really extract the pace from the car and when I did, I could do it for one or two laps, and then it would quickly drop off again with the tires and the balance, so I just didn’t feel like I had a good race performance or race package.”
Addressing his homework for the upcoming races, Ricciardo added that “obviously it’s still new to me, so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of homework for me to do personally to obviously keep getting better.”
One further aspect he revealed, was that he documented his feeling during his first race with McLaren: “I made plenty of notes through the race of what I [was feeling in] the car and where that was holding me back, so I’ll give feedback, I’m sure they’ll give feedback to me and we’ll come to Imola in better shape. But I think if seventh is a poor race, we’re looking alright!”
Though the former Red Bull driver also said, that he could more quickly adapt to the new car this year, than to the new Renault after his switch in 2019. So it is not the first time to come to a new midfield team for the 7-time race winner. “This feels like very familiar territory from two years ago”, he concluded. “But even so, [in 2019] Bahrain was race two and I remember feeling still quite deflated, I would say, at that point. I felt like I had a lot to still learn with the new car at Renault.”
Eventually, he still managed to score two podiums for Renault last year and also expresses optimism for improvement in the next races for his new squad. “I don’t feel like I’m as off the mark as much as then, and I feel like the progress and this process now will be faster. So I’ll put in the work and I’m sure Imola will be a stronger race.”
To Imola, the McLaren squad will head off with 18 points on the table, eyeing for another double-points finish and has good chances to do so after the strong start to their 2021 season.