Race gains encourage Ricciardo after ‘unacceptable’ qualifying performance

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo says his recovery drive in the Portuguese Grand Prix helped him understand how to improve his performance in the McLaren.

The extent of the challenge he faces in adapting to his new team was made clear in qualifying, where he was eliminated in Q1 and lined up 16th on the grid.

But after recovering to finish ninth in the race, four places behind team mate Lando Norris, Ricciardo felt he had done the best he could on the day. “I’m happy with today,” he said after the race. “It was kind of all I could ask for, my best thing today was always going to be a recovery.”

Ricciardo said his performance in qualifying was “not acceptable” and that both he and his team had learned from it.

“Whether it’s tricky or what, I still obviously hold myself to high standards, and even with a few mistakes, I still shouldn’t be out in Q1. So that was for me to deal with.

“I think the team also dealt with it well. They appreciate that the car is not probably doing everything I want it to do. So they kind of put their hand up as well.

“But that one I’ll take, obviously, I just always expect more. Today was better.”

He admitted he “woke up a little frustrated” on Sunday and “wanted to have a bit of a forceful race.

“I think the first lap was good, I took a few chances and it paid off and it was fun.”

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Ricciardo felt happier with the performance of his car in the first stint, on medium tyres, compared to his later run on hards.

“There were times on the medium which showed really good pace and I think there was some some good promise there. Then on the hard, at the end, it was a little tricky but we still managed hold on in the points.

“But [we] didn’t have the pace of Alonso, his pace was really, really something on the hard.”

The race also revealed some potential new set-up improvements to help the car suit Ricciardo’s driving style better. “The clean laps I did, I was happy, but there’s still mistakes during the race and most of the mistakes came from the same thing,” he explained.

“I’m not convinced it’s just updates that will help, but I think actually just set-up I can help myself in that area,” he said. “So it’s probably something I’ve just missed the first few races.

“I think I can probably just change a little bit the set-up to help me in this area. So I’m kind of optimistic looking at Barcelona.”

The areas for improvement include “a bit of locking [brakes], then sometimes it’s losing the rear, but there’s a fine line, I guess.

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“There’s a period in the entry phase [to a corner] where the car is on a knife-edge and I feel like there’s probably a set-up solution where I can just open that and not be on such a knife-edge because it is really sensitive.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021
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“I think Lando is certainly able to say drive around that better than me at the moment and probably to fast-track my learning, I can just try something with set-up the opens that window and it’s probably with suspension or something like that.”

Ricciardo said he had been trying to not move his own set-up too far away from his team mate’s. “Definitely after Bahrain and Imola, I had a clear direction for the team as far as updates and to feedback to aero like, ‘okay, this is where we need to improve the car looking forward’.

“But I still wasn’t sure what I want currently in the car and how I want to set up the car,” he said. “We’re trying not to go too far away from Lando because obviously he’s on top of it and driving well. But I think today I learnt a few things that maybe I can start to set it up to suit me and see how that goes in Barcelona.”

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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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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12 comments on “Race gains encourage Ricciardo after ‘unacceptable’ qualifying performance”

  1. He sure was struggling. Hope he finds rhythm again. Ricciardo is possibly a victim of the Mercedes era. Could have won a title. Maybe. All went to Mercedes. I hope this period will never ever be repeated. It diminishes great drivers from the past (statistically), delivers boring processional races and puts down other talented drivers who never got to shine. Allowing factory teams, coming up with a complex hybrid engine…. they made so many mistakes. Lets hope they learn form it because frankly F1 has become a bit of a joke the last decade with hollow titles for Lewis (before the Lewis fans -which I am myself- start … yes he is great and certainly deserves 3-4 titles but this is getting ridiculous now

    1. Look I am not necessarily disagreeing with you. But this article is about Riccardo, don’t go on a tangent about Mercedes domination on something completely unrelated. By the way since you did bring it up, its also some of the other teams fault that they didn’t deliver something that could challenge Mercedes.

  2. Am confused about Daniel being content with p9.
    It was a very good recovery drive but that car should have finished atleast a couple of places higher.
    Perhaps the surprising improvement in performance from the Alpines disturbed that.

    He’s got to improve.

  3. He looked awful in the Renault too where Hulk failed to cope with Daniel’s presence Lando seems to be taking advantage of Daniel’s tardiness. Eventually when Daniel got to Hulk’s level the difference between them was the mental aspect.

  4. I’m not overly fussed about Dan’s performances right at the moment but will start seriously worrying if we don’t see a fairly rapid improvement over the next few races.

    He’ll need to be absolutely “on it” come Monaco as the Mclaren has the potential to fight for pole there and I know he still feels he’s owed another win from that place.

    1. Still a bit of a dissapointment. Other top drivers seem to adjust faster to a change in teams.

    2. I agree.

      These are ‘teething-trouble’ and Ricciardo will be up to speed by mid-season.

  5. I still think reduced testing and the nature of the rule changes to the floors is what’s making team changes so challenging this year. The change in competitiveness along the whole grid is good enough proof that 2021 is not just a continuation of 2022 as people were predicting last year.

    Also if a driver is still trying to get comfortable with corner entry and rear stability, then their lack of confidence in the car is only going to be exacerbated when there are blustery conditions.

    Daniel’s a great driver, I reckon that by mid-season we’ll be seeing him back to doing his stuff

  6. Echoes of his stint at Red Bull where he would be chasing setup to counter a nervous car on corner entry.

    Of course there is surely something to be found there since he’s new to the car, but Norris has said the car is just inherently tricky so hope Daniel remembers what he said in hindsight about Red Bull, that there comes a point where one has to drive around the problem and not just look for the solution in the setup.

    I guess that’s Ricciardo’s weakness. But when he does find a stable car on entry, he is awesome as we’ve seen with his stunning late braking moves.

    1. I guess that is why Renault and McLaren wanted Dan. Both cars appear/ed to be inherently tricky to drive and Lando and the Hulk might have learnt to drive around the problems but at the end of the day they want to remove those traits as best they can. I’ve no doubt Norris will be a better advisory than the Hulk but I expect the team to take a bigger step forward once they address the shortcomings Dan is experiencing.

  7. I imagine that it’s not a coincidence that Alonso, Ricciardo and Vettel all struggled at the two tracks they haven’t driven much, and that they did so more in qualifying than in the race. Getting to terms with an unfamiliar car is one thing, but doing at a track you only raced once before (or not at all for Alonso in Portimao, and 15 years ago in Imola) means accounting for two moving variables. I expect them all to do better from Spain on.

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