Ricciardo willing to “accept defeat for the moment” as Norris leads McLaren charge

2021 F1 Season

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Daniel Ricciardo says he “wasn’t fast” at Imola and he is still learning to trust McLaren’s car, after his second race with his new team.

Ricciardo finished sixth in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, while his less experienced team mate Lando Norris scored his second career podium with third place. Speaking afterwards, Ricciardo acknowledged that Norris was simply faster on the day, “Sixth, the result looks alright on paper but I wasn’t fast,” he said. “A bit like most of the weekend but obviously Lando got a podium and had stronger pace for at least the majority of the race.

“So I think on one side that’s really positive but obviously on my side, I need to need to figure out not what’s going wrong but just what I can do better. I don’t want to be too hard on myself but I’m going to accept defeat for the moment and just work and see what I can keep improving.”

Norris is in his third year driving for McLaren in F1 and worked with the team prior to that as a junior driver. Ricciardo said that seeing his team mate’s ability to extract pace from the car encouraged him that he would find the same. “I think that even if personally I’m not getting everything out of it yet, the thing that gives me confidence is obviously looking at the potential of the car. It’s there and it’s pretty good.

Ricciardo out-qualified Norris but finished behind him
“It can do more than I think it can as far as just carrying more speed through the corners and the car is going to stick,” he explained. “So there’s a little bit of trust in the car.

“But I don’t think it’s like, just turn in and close your eyes and it’s going to stick. A lot of it is technique as well. And this, I try not to say it as excuses from the past, but there is probably just still some old habits that that I need to flush out a little bit and things that maybe don’t work as well for this car.”

Ricciardo and Norris ran the same strategies during the race, starting on intermediates and switching to softs. Norris admitted he struggled to manage the soft tyres towards the end of the race as he came under attack from Lewis Hamilton.

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Tyre management was key to their difference in pace, said Ricciardo. “He was definitely quicker in the race.

Ricciardo will ‘forget a little bit of pride and look at what I can improve’
“I think the initial part was actually okay. I got up to fifth and I was doing alright with the intermediates. But then I started to lose the front right and my pace dropped off quite a lot.” Ricciardo was asked to let Norris pass, and complied, during the opening stint. “That second phase of the intermediates, I wasn’t fast,” he acknowledged.

Like Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo switched to soft tyres for the final restart, but regretted the decision.

“For the restart I thought there would be a standing start. So we put the soft on but then I saw rolling start and thought ‘ah’. I tried to look after the tyre but the others just kept pulling away so I started to push on it and then I was really, really struggling.”

Ricciardo said he needs to “forget a little bit of pride and actually have a look at what I can improve” following his first two races for McLaren.

“I’m definitely in a productive mindset and not in a defeatist mindset. I certainly see the positives and for the team as well. [In] the second race, to get a podium already, I think it’s a good start.

“It’s encouraging to be up in the mix. So a lot to be excited for this year, I think the sport in general is all pretty tight and so I’m okay with that. I’m certainly happy with the progress we made today and there’s still more to come. So I’ll be patient yet persistent.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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40 comments on “Ricciardo willing to “accept defeat for the moment” as Norris leads McLaren charge”

  1. forget a little bit of pride and actually have a look at what I can improve

    A very nice quality to possess. I really hope he improves in the races to come. I also think he can offer a lot to the sport post retirement in the form of nurturing youngsters.

    1. Yeah, that one, combined with the lines about looking at how Norris is able to get speed out of the car through setup and driving style both show that Daniel is ready to get on it and improve his own approach.

  2. I remember Hamilton making similar comments after his first couple of races at Mercedes, though I think his issue was confidence on the brakes and in particular adapting to the way the W04’s aero load changed under braking, and we all know how that ended.

    I think Ricciardo will end up there or thereabouts with the same mindset, but there’s no doubting Lando is really beginning to shine. As much as I like the Aussie, I think I’d prefer to see Lando emerge as another special talent who could take it to Verstappen in the years to come.

    I’d be quite happy for Hamilton to retire at the end of this year and see the next generation (Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Russell) battling it out under the new regs, but I suspect he’ll want to play with the new cars at least once too.

    1. Although I’m not in anyway affected if Hamilton chooses to continue or retire, but I do find it odd that no one is calling for Alonso or Kimi to retire to create room for new blood when we consider they are 39 and 40 years respectively. Hamilton is 35 and got to f1 at least 5 seasons after both drivers

      1. Because they’re not winning titles one after another. People are only “calling” or talking about Hamilton retiring because they want to see someone else win. And there’s no risk of anyone doing that on an Alpine or an Alfa.

        1. But does that mean we cannot see the sight of a young driver trying to make their mark by trying to drag a car to a place few would have expected with those teams?

          If you want a new generation of drivers, they have to start somewhere – why not ask the question of whether a driver like Kimi is blocking the progress of aspiring drivers?

      2. Not that I don’t appreciate his cameos but Kimi should have retired any number of years ago, I’m beyond surprise that he resigns (but then see some ads). Alonso left too early and it’s intriguing to see how he does… close enough will be good enough this year but in a totally new ’22 car maybe his unique approach can be the difference.
        Of course there’s tediousness to having the same ultimate result YIYO, who doesn’t want it mixed up? Hamilton’s mooted retirement as a distinct possibility and this year’s contract delay reinforces the concept.
        For me it would be optimum to watch Hamilton in the same machinery as Russell next year.

  3. he looked awful in the Renault too and he turned that around. Lando looks genuinely good at the moment I’m sure Ricciardo can match him but I don’t know if he can pull ahead.

  4. Ricciardo was and is better than Sainz, so, I am confident that he is going to do better (not particularly better than Norris maybe). The overtaking ability of Lando is very good, he was a better racer than qualifier, but nowadays he is topping both. Glad to see such a character do good in F1.

    1. How do you know he’s better than Sainz? Obviously I don’t know either, but to me Sainz has performed at a higher level for the last 2 seasons. As for Norris – actually, it was the other way round by his own admission, his racing was weaker than his qualifying.

    2. @tflb Seconded. His quali has always been strong, despite running a close battle with Sainz, I think generally, he’s been on top of him and had better quali pace. This year his race pace I think is really going to refine.

      Turning into a fine racer.

    3. F1 fans and journalist crack me up. They’ll declare a driver’s career over or over the hill or inferior to a teammate on the basis of a single race. Ricciardo’s history speaks for itself. Guy matched or beat young Max and beat every other teammate he’s ever had. Not sure what else you need to do to gain the benefit of the doubt. Lando is good and he’s been driving the same car for three seasons straight. If he didn’t have the better of Daniel right now I’d be very worried that he was a bust.

  5. F1 is supposed to be hard. If DR or any driver were to come in to any team as the newbie, even though they are not themselves rookies, and be quickly up to the same pace and confidence in the car as the engrained driver, then F1 would be too easy and would need to be changed. I expect DR to take at least the first 5 races just as SP has claimed he’ll need, to get anywhere near their engrained teammates. He needn’t be hard on himself and indeed it sounds like he has the right perspective that it is simply going to take time to gain the same confidence in the car that Norris currently enjoys. It’s only natural if F1 is as hard as we should want and expect it to be, being the pinnacle of Motorsport globally.

    1. 1 driver comes to mind who could get in the car and come 3rd in his first race… When he started back in 2007. I dont want to mention Lewis Hamiltons name but then that just shows how naturally talented and fast Lewis is. His partner was also the back to back champion, alonso who beat the greatest of that time michael shumacher.

      1. Same for Verstappen in the RB, winning his first race with pressure from a nearby Raikkonen. But maybe the both are not the best benchmark but rather exceptions

        1. Sorry Mayrton, I meant to reply to your party with a +1, not reporting you…

        2. Wayne and Mayrton Fair comments. There are going to be exceptions, and in the case of LH it was his rookie season and so stepping into F1 was wholly new to him and he had nothing to compare to, and that is not to take anything away from the stellar job he did. A bit different than adapting to a new team and re-learning in a car that feels quite different and may not be top 3, on a team that doesn’t know him yet ala DR and this article.

          And yeah Max won his first race at RBR, in part with some luck, but then went on to struggle and went through his wreckless exuberance of youth stage during which many love to point out DR beat him. Many love to claim RBR is a one rooster team, and so we’d have to say to them then Max had joined DR’s team, without even the advantage of the pre-season testing and the first four races in that car in 2016. So even for Max it took some time and 2016 was unique. After that he started taking over qualifying higher, finishing higher on average, but of course was still taking too many risks that inevitably handed points and positions to DR, until Max’s Monaco 2018 mistake finally hit him like a wall, pardon the pun, and he straighten up his act and hasn’t looked back.

      2. Not to take anything away from Lewis Hamilton, but he wasn’t new to the team or the car at the start of 2007.

        1. And had unlimited testing. It’s a huge difference to these days.

  6. All the guys new to the teams are really struggling. Perez, Ric, Vet, Alo, Seinz and all the rookies have series of issues, mistakes.

    It makes Hulkenberg look really impressive when he parachuted in as a replacement.

    Overall, these cars are hard to drive now, with lack of rear balance. Some struggle more than others.

    Case in point Lewis and Max vs their slow teammates. Getting the car in performance window or not can be a 30s difference over a race.

  7. I think what is making the drivers that switched teams or are new to a team/car is that their team mates have already acclimatized to the car AND because of the stability of the regs the pack has closed up even more. Previously if they were 4 tenths off they might be a position or two behind, but now this could be exacerbated with other cars and teams there in the fight that might of been further behind. I think the best example is Bottas – he was generally a bit slower than Lewis and if you go back a few years where the Merc may of for arguments sake been 1s quicker than Ferrari or Red Bull then he’d still be 2nd. Either way it’ll be interesting how they’ve all settled in come mid season.
    With Ricardo I’m not too concerned, but I do wonder if this will improve Danial’s and Lando’s relationship (i.e Daniel has more respect for Lando and vice versa as Daniel played the team game) or degrade things…I was encouraged and hope they end up working together well to move McLaren forward (which they both want)

    1. Yeah good point about the tighter field

  8. Its too early to tell. Ham and Ver were impressive when in a new car (3rd and 1st). So maybe this puts the ‘new in the car people’ a bit in a bad spotlight while it was rather Lewis and Max just being extraordinarily good. Then again, maybe Ricciardo also ‘suffers’ from overestimation by the public. Given his nice character, big smile and the fact that he drove a rather good RedBull may just have made him look a bit better than he actually is. We also know now (what we didnt know then) that beating Vettel isn’t really an achievement and I am sure that also contributed to us thinking Ricciardo is WDC material.

    1. Russell was maybe even more impressive as he was not even fitted for the car, so a lot of this is how easy or not the car is to drive, and how you luck in with the car fitting your style, and even how the team focuses on you. Of course adaptability is a big part of what sorts the men from the boys in F1, but I’ll still give the new guys some more time with so little testing and after 2 unusuallly tricky races.

  9. He declared that on the pre season test. His race engineer was telling him to brake later, and we know he is one of the drivers who does the late breaking very well, so it seems he is not really feeling confident. Hopefully we’ll get him back to speed, so we can watch his overtaking again.

  10. Ricciardo is still not 100% pushing like his early days with Renault. It took him a few races to get the measure of Hulkenberg like 4/5 races before he leading the way.

    So by around Spain/Monaco (where he always goes well) he will be more comfortable and should be up there fighting for podiums and maybe wins by the end of the year

  11. Looking at all the drivers facing a new challenge in a brand new car, it is even more impressive when Verstappen won his first outing with a new car in 2016.
    I always expected Ricci to be close to that level. But alas, like Perez he needs some races to know the car.

  12. Funny. Ricciardo was stepping to Hamilton (talking about matching him in the mercedes) and yet he can barely manage Max and Lando. Beat those guys consistently first honey possum, and then you can talk about coming to Mercedes to beat sir Lewis.

    1. Some cars fit the driver like a glove immediately. Some don’t. Even Hamilton had teething problems before with new cars. When he joined RBR, he was immediately out pacing Seb. And as awful as Seb is now, there’s no doubt he was at one time an excellent qualifier and fast when out in the lead.

      1. Yes, but 2014 vettel was almost as bad as recent times vettel, he’s never been strong on traffic and without a top car, so 2014 vettel isn’t really a strong benchmark, having said this ricciardo should still be one of the best current drivers.

      2. I dont believe in ‘fits the driver’ and ‘more suitable to his driving style’. The phenomenon is there, sure but if it applies to you as a driver you’re probably not WDC material. That comes when you drive around anything you encounter. And Ricciardo beating Vettel in hindsight doesn’t mean that much as Vettel only drove well when RB had the best car, he didnt have to do any battling (never in traffic, starting from pole) and had Webber (! very mediocre) as a team mate. So we never got the true picture of Vettel until Ricciardo came along. Ric beating Vettel may therefore just set the expectations a bit too high since we wrongfully thought Vettel was good. Add the super personality and big smile and we all believe he is at the top of the field. Not sure though..

  13. 23 races is a lot, let’s see by the end of the season. RIC is still the only driver that really took the fight to Verstappen. Lando is definitely becoming an adult this season though, I think he sees it as his chance to step out of the shadows a little and will be a more formidable opponent than last year against Sainz. Very interesting! 50/50 I would say.

    1. 23 races is overkill. Reduce it to 20.

      1. 23 races is not enough. Make it 26.

        1. Every other weekend sounds great. 26 it is!

          1. With races during the winter break, which turns it into a summer calendar just like Premier League and Formula E!

        2. That would extend it to a “football calendar”!

  14. Its interesting that there’s so so much difference from car to car. Having driven a couple of them now you’d think it would be easier to adapt. He said the same thing about the Renault at the start.

    Hopefully he can find something in the setup that will help suit him a bit better. I worry there’s a bit of “this is the way you need to drive to be fast in this car” like the Red Bull, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out for their second drivers.

    While it’s good that their is pace in the car, it doesn’t help if he can’t master the technique to extract it.

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