“I don’t know how much slower I can go”: Inside Ricciardo’s unnecessary economy run

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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By lap 43 of the Qatar Grand Prix, things were looking very bad indeed for Daniel Ricciardo.

Team mate Lando Norris was nine places and 45 seconds up the road, having gained more than a second on him per lap. He’d just been overtaken by Valtteri Bottas in a damaged Mercedes running some way off the pace. What had gone wrong for the number three McLaren?

Ricciardo’s race got off to a difficult start. From 14th on the grid he lost two places at the first corner. “The actual launch wasn’t bad,” the McLaren driver explained after the race. “But there was Charles [Leclerc] and [Lance] Stroll and I think I was kind of in the middle and I basically couldn’t see turn one.

“If you can’t see, obviously when you’re towards the back it’s quite hard to see that far through the pack, so then you kind of look for the braking markers to get a reference on when to brake, and I just couldn’t see them. So I kind of stayed in it ’til as long as I thought and then I lifted and I ultimately just lifted way too early and then a lot of people I think on the outside had a clear run and went.”

That poor start left him 16th. But within a few laps he’d picked off the likes of George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi. From there on, however, he was unable to make any serious inroads into the points-paying positions.

The problem for the number three McLaren was fuel management. From an early stage in the race, Ricciardo was being told to hit surprisingly tough targets for conserving fuel, lifting and coasting more than usual.

“We were, quick enough, at one point, to get back in kind of position,” he explained. “And then we had fuel saving already. After the start, we had fuel saving from super-early in the race.”

The first sign came as early as lap 10, when Ricciardo queried a message on his dash with his race engineer Tom Stallard:

LapSpeakerMessage
10StallardThis fuel message, I guess it’s nothing?
10StallardSo fuel consumption is high, fuel consumption is high, it’s okay for the moment, fuel one perhaps.
13RicciardoOkay. How’s my [lift-and-coast]?
13StallardOkay Daniel, so what you’re doing for [lift-and-coast] is about fuel three like fuel three. I think we need fuel five, please fuel five.
15StallardPurple C3 position two, purple C3 position two. Fuel saving you’re doing is good, that will change the dash slightly for that but fuel saving you’re doing good, keep that.
16StallardHow’s the tyre, how’s the tyre? Are you happy with target lap?
17RicciardoSo far yep. Just the fuel saving’s a little bit tricky with brakes.
17StallardFuel save last lap was good, that’s exactly what we need.
17RicciardoWould going rearwards help the bite?
17StallardNegative it’s fronts that are cold. Front brakes are cold.
17StallardSuggest two clicks forward brake balance, two clicks forward.
18StallardBlue harvest seven, blue harvest seven.

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As Ricciardo lifted early before each corner and coasted in, his tyres and brakes began to drop in temperature, further compromising his lap times.

“I started doing what I thought was already a lot and it was not enough,” Ricciardo explained. “So Tom said you need to do more, it’s not enough and blah blah blah to a point where I think at times we were losing probably two seconds a lap fuel saving.

“With that, brakes get cold, tyres get cold and you lose grip as well. So it’s just kind of a downward spiral.”

Initially Ricciardo’s lap times were in the vicinity of his team mate’s. Norris was stuck behind Gasly until lap 12, then his soft tyres began to fade, though even as their pit stops approached Ricciardo wasn’t able to use his mediums to lap quicker than his team mate.

As Ricciardo’s pit stop neared, he advised his team he didn’t want to switch to the hard rubber. However the softs would have forced him towards a two-stop strategy instead of one, which would have compromised his race even further.

LapSpeakerMessage
24RicciardoIf we have to lift-and-coast I don’t like the hards.
24StallardHow many laps do you think you can do on this tyre?
24RicciardoMy left-front’s getting worse so I think it’ll last a few more but not far.
24StallardOkay Daniel we need to push now, push now.
25StallardYou can finish the tyre.
25StallardOkay Daniel we’re box this lap, box this lap.

Switch to hard tyres made fuel saving tougher
Both drivers had hard tyres for the second stint, Ricciardo’s a lap younger than his team mate’s, but he was still much slower. “We were fuel saving for a good half of the race and that just took us way, way out,” he said.

“It’s the most I’ve had to save and the earliest in the race I’ve ever had to save,” said Ricciardo, who told journalists after the race they could have lapped at the pace he was doing. “I was coasting into every corner and it was never enough.”

Eventually the team realised something in the system was giving them wrong information about how much fuel Ricciardo needed to save:

LapSpeakerMessage
31RicciardoDo I still need all the [lift-and-coast]?
31StallardYes. Fuel saving from last lap is correct. You need to follow the dash.
31StallardSo target zero on the bottom number, target zero on the bottom number.
33StallardDaniel try and push a little more on the reads, to push the rears a bit more. Lando last lap 28.5 on hard.
34StallardOkay Daniel suggest yellow diff four, yellow diff for. Keep using right-hand-side toggle in the final corner and if it snaps again, use the mid rotary as well for the final corner, more mid switch.
35StallardAnd slightly too much fuel last lap. Keep an eye on the bottom number, zero at the end of the lap.
35StallardSuggest full lift turn 13 for fuel and tyres. Full lift turn 13. 13 and 14.
35RicciardoI just lost so much time with [lift-and-coast]. Just kills all the balance.
36StallardUnderstood. So we suggest a bigger lifts in high speed and the [lift-and-coast] you can reduce slightly.
36StallardSuggest red mid six. Other cars struggling with fuel.
37StallardBlue Harvest six, blue Harvest six and keep working the fuel. The severity, the top number, has got a bit worse, we need to keep that under control.
38StallardDaniel I need full lift in turn nine and 13. Full lift in nine and 13 for fuel.
39StallardOkay last lap was close on fuel, I need one percent more than that, one percent more than that.
39RicciardoIt’s just painful, so slow. I know I’ve got to do it, but just affects everything.
40StallardOkay that’s Bottas behind you, you are racing him, overtake is available.
42RicciardoStill says the number’s positive on the fuel. I don’t know how slower I can go.
42StallardOkay Daniel you can use plus two at the end of lap on the bottom number. Plus two on the bottom number at the end of lap will be okay.

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Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Sudden instruction to stop saving fuel baffled Ricciardo
“I don’t know what happened, obviously the system or they got another reading, but then Tom said ‘alright no more, just push’,” Ricciardo recalled. “I said, ‘but wait, no fuel saving?’ He goes ‘no, just push’.

“So I was like, I’m so confused. It’s clearly something that’s gone wrong.”

Ricciardo immediately brought his lap times within a few tenths of what his team mate had been doing. But by this stage Norris had succumbed to a front-left puncture which, ironically, Ricciardo may well have been spared because he was driving so far within the car’s potential.

But with the next car of Pierre Gasly around half a minute up the road in 11th place, Ricciardo’s hopes of taking points were over.

LapSpeakerMessage
45StallardDaniel use fuel one, fuel one, ignore the dash.
46StallardDaniel you can do less fuel saving, just fuel one, less fuel saving. Car ahead is Bottas, he’s not fast 28.5 from Bottas, go get him.
47StallardOkay Daniel no fuel save, no fuel save.
50StallardDaniel I’ve seen three cars with front-left punctures. Where you can stay off the aggressive kerbs front-left, it’s not a bad idea.
50StallardObviously, you have to be realistic with lap time as well. I’ll leave that with you.
50RicciardoSo just to be clear, you don’t want fuel saving?
50StallardCorrect ignore the dash, just push.
51StallardDaniel, Latifi’s that he’s had a puncture, he’s between five and six now, he’ll be turn six when you get there.
51StallardOkay Latifi has parked the car exit of six. And Daniel we need to look after front left turn 12 to 14 and turn four five.
51RicciardoAre we racing anyone ahead?
51StallardDaniel the cars ahead are quite well ahead, but with the puncture risk, you want to be as fast as possible, just careful on the kerbs through here. The left-hand side kerbs, left-hand side kerbs.
FinishStallardOkay. Daniel that’s the chequered flag. Can I have strat five, strat five. No recharge, ACS off, maximum fuel save. And white H8 position one, white H8 position one. Okay Daniel look after the fuel, should be okay now, look after the fuel on the in-lap. We’ve got some investigating to do with that. You finished P12, finishing order: Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Sainz, Leclerc, Lando, Vettel, Gasly and yourself.
FinishRicciardoUnderstood. Yeah, let’s discuss once we’re back.

“It’s clearly a system error,” Ricciardo reflected after the race. “It’s a shame because when I could push, I felt the reference time I got at the time I was able to get, but we were at the mercy of an error today with the reading system.”

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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22 comments on ““I don’t know how much slower I can go”: Inside Ricciardo’s unnecessary economy run”

  1. 2021 a year Ricciardo will be glad to see the back of I reckon.

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      26th November 2021, 8:06

      Apart from the Italian GP

    2. Apparently, like max and Lewis Danny likes to brake “early” and be on the front of the car into the corner, though again apparently the McLaren doesn’t like this die to the way it loads the tyres. And lando has been able to adapt better. Next year is a fresh start so will be good to see

      1. Yeah, he’s suppose to drive the car like a kart, late braking, instead of his previous style where he laid up the corner for an earlier acceration. Some circuits will suite his old style better than others. This last circuit with its higher speed corners should have suited him, instead we had these ‘gremlins’ which seems to have targeted his ‘potential’ on this track to get up there in the mix. Its all very very strange.

      2. Lando has not “adopted better” he gets preferential treatment over Danny Ric as the car is built around him due to politics as his dad is a key investor in Mclaren group plus he is Zak Browns personal prodigy as he wants to build Lando as a post Ron Dennis era ‘success’ story…as the Group posts a €400m loss, lol no offence but Zak Brown is a wish dot com version of Ron

        The question is when is Lando going to deliver and stop being a dank meme clown? I never feel like he takes F1 100% seriously and you can see his shortcomings in races like Russia this year where he refused to pit and thrown away his first win because he is the Landobot F1 savant and knows more than his €1m a year strategists(!) I guess when daddies net wealth is measured in the hundreds of millions its hard to be humble or have hunger like a Hamilton, Schumacer, Vettel, Senna etc who was not born into money.
        There is no coincidence that ALL modern F1 greats come from modest backgrounds.
        To be fair Lando is clearly leagues ahead of Mazepin and lance stroll who are a joke and make a mockery of F1 when Billionaire daddies literally buy teams for their sons to race in but Landobot still needs more humbleness to be a next great.

  2. Yup. It’s really the driver that drivers the car, right?

    1. Not really the problem here, it would have been even worse if he was all by himself with no engineer in his ear. Daniel would have just trusted the broken fuel readings all race, not knowing for sure that the sensor was faulty. At least with team radio, they figured it out later in the race, allowing him to go a bit quicker.

      1. That is fundamentally the wrong way of thinking in my opinion.

        If this kind of interaction was not allowed they would have *designed* a car that Daniel could drive by himself.
        Might not have been as fast, might have more variation in lap times, might not be as reliable, might put more responsibility on the driver to manage the car – but added up, do you really think that it would lead to a worse Formula 1?

        1. If this kind of interaction was not allowed they would have *designed* a car that Daniel could drive by himself.

          No, if this kind of interaction was not allowed they would have designed a car that would bypass such regulations and still give the benefit of pitwall input to Daniel and not a car that Daniel could drive by himself.

          Unfortunately, the nature of F1 with the big corporates involved, so much money being spent and technology being an inherent part of the sport , teams will focus their energies on bypassing the rules that make the car / driver slower

          1. Haha, fully agree, but I did not want to be that cynical! It’s all in the rule set though.

            I still love MotoGP riders for unanimously rejecting rider radios ;-)

        2. I respectfully disagree.

          F1 is an exercise in which man and machine explore the boundaries of what’s possible in order to get around a track as quickly as possible.
          As a result, the driver championship is not an objective assessment of the abilities of each driver. It represents which driver-teams are best at getting around the track quickly.

          Those driver-teams consist of multiple people, each attributing in one way or another.
          I don’t think we could call it topsport or the pinnacle of motor racing if the teams would just leave tenths that are available on the table.
          Enforcing amateur levels of execution in some domains just seems random to me.

          To me, abolishing feedback from the engineer would be similar to dismissing Guardiola from Man city because the players have to play themselves.
          Or abolishing training altogether, because we think natural ability should prevail.

          1. So, by your reasoning, you would like to see the following main rules reverted?
            On-the-the-fly control of car parameters directly from the pits, and removal of bans on driver aids.

            (Roughly said, back to control like in 1994, but with tech of 2021 – which would definitely make the fastest cars ever, but with very little driver input ;-)

          2. Counter example: in my opinion MotoGP balances technology, engineering and rider input better than F1. By far most of the engineering is before the race – after that it’s up to the rider to execute, without information that his brake is 0.5deg below target.

          3. (ugh, 3rd reply)
            It’s not an either-or is all I’m saying.
            It’s a balance.

          4. I would not necessarily object to that, no..

            Mind you, I do not see it as a black and white issue. However, there is a difference between a driver driving based on audio-visual inputs received and a driver not driving at all.

            I do believe that the driver should not be the only one who should influence a race result.
            I do not believe that a driver should have no influence. The driver remains an actor. A fully computer-steered car would not fit into this man-machine combination. It would just be the machine going around the track.

            Where you draw the line between driver aid and computer-steered vehicle is a grey area for me,
            I am not religiously opposed to driver aids or remote access to the car, in fact, you can even make a good argument that society would benefit from it.

  3. I feel frustrated just reading it. I can only imagine what it’s like for a racing driver with the instinct to go as fast as possible! How annoying!

  4. Just a thought, but using more contracting colors in the graph would certainly make it easier to read….

  5. I don’t get it. As soon as it was obvious the fuel saving was keeping Ricciardo out of the points, the team should have told him to ignore the fuel saving to the extent that it would at least enable the car to fight for points. If the car is right then nothing is lost, they wasted 300km.

    1. If he ran out of fuel he would have been penalized at the next race

      1. @pastaman Running out of fuel & consequently retiring doesn’t lead to a penalty.

  6. He seems to have a lot of technical problems.
    Could Mclaren be setting him up to be replaced ?

    1. Seidl genuinely speaks highly of RIC & in,fact, wanted RIC in his Porsche LMP1 crew @ Le Mans. RBR said No. HULK drove in the car & won.
      He has more than his fair share of bad luck & RBR, Reggie & now here. Last 2 races were DNF [cracked chassis???] & now fuel issue.
      To me, the Monza week-end was re-affirming.
      Sincerely trust this is like his RBR days, where SEB was unbeatable for 4 yrs, then FIA changed the rules and he could not get the hang of the different car. On that basis both NOR & RIC will be on equal footing in ’22.
      Good finishes in the last 2 will help the pysche over the break.

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