Ricciardo’s Monza victory softens his decisive defeat by Norris

2021 team mate battles: Norris vs Ricciardo

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McLaren may have lost third place in the constructors’ championship to Ferrari in 2021, but it was still a memorable season for the Woking-based team.

The arrival of multiple race winner Daniel Ricciardo to the team alongside third-year driver Lando Norris saw McLaren possess arguably the most popular driver line up on the grid. But from the outset, the newest McLaren driver could not find his comfort zone in an unfamiliar cockpit.

Ricciardo made no secret of how he struggled to fully grasp the braking nuances required to extract the maximum potential from the MCL35M. This could be seen from the opening rounds of the season, where despite qualifying ahead of his team mate in both Bahrain and Imola, Norris’s superior race pace led McLaren to ask Ricciardo to let him through early in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Norris went on to record a first podium of the season in third place.

Sporting a smart one-off Gulf livery around the streets of Monaco, both McLaren drivers also drew attention for very different reasons on race day. While Norris drove brilliantly to take a spot on the coveted Monaco podium with third place, Ricciardo’s pace was so poor his team mate lapped him, en route to a lowly 12th.

Five straight races without a Q3 appearance only further reflected how difficult Ricciardo was finding it to adapt to the car, as Norris continued to beat his more experienced team mate on both Saturdays and Sundays until the summer break. Going into the shutdown period, Norris sat as high as third in the drivers’ championship with more than double the points tally that Ricciardo had amassed down in ninth place.

The break appeared to do Ricciardo good as he immediately secured his best finish of the season when the championship resumed in Spa – albeit thanks to the race never getting close to being started.

Then at Monza, everything seemed to come together. Starting second and third on the grid after sprint qualifying race winner Valtteri Bottas was hit with a grid penalty, Ricciardo leapt out into the lead ahead of Max Verstappen while Norris gave chase in third. When the two championship contenders crashed out, the two McLarens were handed a golden opportunity for the team’s first win since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2021
A breakthrough win got away from Norris in Russia
Ricciardo demonstrated he’d lost none of his race-winning ability and led Norris home in the only one-two finish any team enjoyed all season – only the third time Ricciardo had reached the chequered flag ahead of Norris all year. Norris took a stunning pole the next round in Russia and had a real opportunity to take his first career win in the race before gambling to stay out on dry tyres on an increasingly wet track saw his hopes evaporate.

That was the closest either McLaren driver got to the podium for the remainder of the season, as the team began to lose touch with Ferrari in the battle over third in the constructors’ championship. Ricciardo finished ahead of Norris in the United States and Saudi Arabia, but otherwise Norris was the faster McLaren on race day during the latter part of the season.

As the season came to an end Norris was narrowly beaten to fifth in the drivers’ championship by former McLaren team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, while Ricciardo only just finished the season ahead of Pierre Gasly in eighth. Overall, Norris comfortably won the qualifying battle 15-7, while he reached the chequered flag ahead of his team mate on 14 occasions, losing out only six times.

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Lando Norris vs Daniel Ricciardo: Key stats

Lando Norris vs Daniel Ricciardo: Who finished ahead at each round


Lando Norris vs Daniel Ricciardo: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates Lando Norris was faster, positive means Daniel Ricciardo was faster

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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39 comments on “Ricciardo’s Monza victory softens his decisive defeat by Norris”

  1. Interesting development during the year. Seen as one of the greatest talents ricciardo never could deliver consistently.in other situations the causes are attributed to different cars. Hardly ever the case. The teathing problems of ricciardo and someone like perez shows clearly there are very different choices in brakes and setup that needs a lot of adaption by the driver. Interestingly ricciardo came from a Renault engine he wad used to.
    Probably the very different engine characteristics are mainly debet of this adaption problem.
    Next year a clean slate and knowledge of the team and the new car.

    1. I saw this battle in two halves.

      First half of the year, Lando beat Daniel, hands down.

      Second half of the year, it is an even split.

      For me, the biggest disappointment of the year was the way McLaren folded after Monza/Sochi. Both drivers were ahead of the field on merit in Monza, not like Ocon in Hungary, or Gasly at Monza. McLaren looked faster/better than either Max or Lewis. then Lando had Sochi in the bag after securing Pole.

      1. In the first half of the season Norris scored points very consistently. He scored 113 points before the summer break and just 47 after the break. For Ricciardo the corresponding figures were 50 and 65.

        To me it seemed Norris just had no luck at all in the second half of the season. It all started in Belgium, when he was strong in qualifying until he crashed, which caused him to start outside the top 10 and therefore he had no chance to score points in the “race”. Norris out-qualified Ricciardo in Italy, but lost his advantage in the sprint race, and finished behind Ricciardo in the main race to secure a McLaren 1-2. In Russia he was leading and the rain shower was just what he didn’t need. But telling his engineer to shut up when he suggested to switch to wet-weather tires was just dumb; every race driver knows when the track is too wet for slicks you’ll lose massive amounts of time. After this race McLaren weren’t able to fight for race wins any longer, but Norris lost better results in Qatar and Abu Dhabi because of a late-race puncture, while in Brazil he cut across Sainz at the start, giving him another puncture.

  2. As a Ricciardo fan I have to admit I had high hopes for him this year, but was disappointing in his performance. I understand the Mclaren is a difficult car to drive and he had only a day or so behind the wheel before the first race. His situation was made to look worse by a very determined Norris set on showing his ability against a top driver, he did that in spades.
    With the input into the 2022 program, Ricciardo’s experience in sorting the cars problems will I think show through and he and Norris will be fighting for wins on a regular basis.

    1. Mmm, a bold claim to say they will be fighting for wins regularly, we don’t even know if there will be more than 1 car able to fight for wins.

      1. @esploratore I rated Sainz’s two seasons with McLaren as better than Ricciardo’s with Renault, so yes, personally I did rate Sainz marginally higher than Ricciardo coming into this season – and much higher now.

      2. Sorry, replied to wrong comment…

  3. As someone who’s always had a sneaking suspicion that Ricciardo was flattering to deceive, I was not at all surprised to see him lagging so far behind Norris. His victory shouldn’t make too much of a difference to assessment of his season – he was largely awful, and the gap would have been even bigger had Norris not had some terrible luck in the latter part of the season.

    As for Norris – I remember a lot of people were predicting him to be destroyed by Ricciardo, despite the fact he’d already fared very well against a superior driver in Sainz. Lando seemed to grow up even more this year – for me he’s one of the best on the grid. However, I hope Mclaren’s loss of form after Russia is not a trend for next year.

    1. Sainz superior to ricciardo? Not for what I’ve seen before this season.

      1. @esploratore1

        Sainz superior to ricciardo? Not for what I’ve seen before this season.

        Only flattering Sainz and underestimating Ricciardo (or being a prophet of the hindsight).

      2. @esploratore1 I rated Sainz’s two seasons with McLaren as better than Ricciardo’s with Renault, so yes, personally I did rate Sainz marginally higher than Ricciardo coming into this season – and much higher now.

        1. Ah, interesting, it’s not easy to determine if a driver is better when they drive different cars, I thought they could be equivalent before this season, with sainz being unlucky to come at the wrong time to get a red bull chance.

    2. @tflb

      His victory shouldn’t make too much of a difference to assessment of his season – he was largely awful, and the gap would have been even bigger had Norris not had some terrible luck in the latter part of the season.

      And Norris not only had bad luck but also took a dip on performance with some mistakes, and Ricciardo largely failed to capitalise on that. His focus was probably on next year already.

  4. Of the 6 times Ricciardo beat Norris, 3 of them are Spa, Sochi, Saudi.. Races where there was either no race or Norris had bad luck.

    So technically, the 14-6 should be more like 17-3

    1. Well, Noris in Sochi was not bad luck. It was just foolishness and stubbornness

      1. Was bad luck, he would’ve won had the weather gone the other way, drying up instead of going full wet conditions.

  5. Hope to see Riccardio discover form next year or its curtains for him in his hopes of ever challenging for a title. He was one of the best drivers between 2014-20 and if F1 wasn’t a one car championship in this period, those performances would have got the rewards they deserved. Feels like another waste of talent in F1, especially when his team mate record is very good, comfortably beating a 4 time WDC, holding his own against the guy who just beat a 7 time WDC and dominated race winner Ocon too.

    1. Yes, wasn’t a good choice to leave red bull, was it? I said immediately I considered it silly, just cause hamilton was lucky with merc move doesn’t make every unexpected move good (renault).

      1. @esploratore1
        He had no choice, since Red Bull didn’t provide him with a car competitive as Verstappen’s and he perfectly knows he wouldn’t have any chance to compete.
        Red Bull is a one-driver team, they prefer losing with Max than winning with anybody else.
        Funny how Mercedes is always accusing of messing up with Bottas and nobody has anything to say about Red Bull

        1. The thing is I don’t think red bull decided out of the blue “let’s favour verstappen just because!”, they built the car around him cause he was the best driver they had, and before verstappen came there the car was built around the best driver they had: ricciardo.

          You certainly don’t expect the early 2016 red bull to be built around verstappen when he was in toro rosso, I hope?

          I think verstappen simply ended up becoming a better driver than ricciardo during 2017 (ricciardo was still a safer pair of hands back then, but verstappen was faster) and that prompted red bull to design cars around him, I think ricciardo actually couldn’t compete with him for the title, but at least he was driving consistently well in red bull, didn’t do that this year.

    2. @brum55
      Verstappen “just beat” Hamilton is a very bold assumption.
      He needed Masi to do that.

      1. @liko41
        Please! The WDC should never have got to Abu Dhabi. The WDC is 22 races, and Max lost 61-75 points due to bad Pirelli tyres and poor Mercedes driving. Masi giving a time penalty in Silverstone to Hamilton instead of an immediate drive through/10 second stop go penalty was Masi giving Hamilton a far bigger favour than he gave Verstappen.

        1. Agree, in terms of luck swing I had calculated more like 40 points in favour of hamilton across the season, even including the rare verstappen luck, so adding abu dhabi thing leaves still a race win gifted to hamilton (25 points better luck), and yes, silverstone could’ve been a bigger penalty.

        2. @brum55
          The championship indeed should never have got to Abu Dhabi because Verstappen got the best car for two thirds of the season, but was unable to win the title before the final race.
          Despite not being penalized for forcing Hamilton off track at Imola and Barcelona, despite having a race win gifted in Spa, despite not being seriously penalized in Jeddah and Interlagos.
          The Silverstone move by Hamilton was a small sip of maxi’s own medicine, because he finally got tired of always having to use his brain to avoid the crashes maxi is always looking for.
          That reckless, dangerous and spoiled dutch kiddo needs to understand other drivers are sick and tired of him. Leclerc announced it already.
          More accidents next year.

          1. @liko41
            Mercedes were better in Portugal, Spain, Silverstone, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Turkey and the last 4 races Mercedes were back to their pre 2021 levels of domination. I also think they were better in Imola but Hamilton made a big mistake going off which ruined his chances of winning that race. So that’s 12/22 that Merc were better in.
            Why would Max be penalised in Imola or Barcelona? Where is the precedent in those sort of moves being punished?
            He was penalised in Jeddah and neither that nor Interlagos resulted in any lost points for LH unlike in Silverstone or Hungary. Of course I know the British media were desperate to see him punished.
            Also I like Lerclerc but I’m not sure he is the best person to comment on a WDC who beat a 7 time WDC in an inferior car considering he just lost out to his team-mate who just joined the team, a team-mate Max got the better of in Toro Rosso.

  6. Guys,

    I just wanted to say thank you to Keith, Dieter and co for what is (in my opinion) the best F1 site on the net. It’s been a pleasure to read and participate throughout 2021.

    A very Merry Christmas to all at Racefans and to all of you that regularly post. Here’s to a minblowingly epic 2022 season.


    1. Well said, Sonny. You speak for all of us.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      25th December 2021, 0:27


  7. I witnessed Lando’s first race weekend in F1 at Albert Park in 2019. Watching him practice, qualify and race, I immediately bought McLaren merch, not Renault merch, as my fellow Aussies did to support Danny Ric. Lando is the real deal – a future champion. Although, I’ll always obviously have a soft spot for Daniel, I think his best days are behind him. Lando may take over as the most popular F1 driver, now that Kimi’s called it quits. I’m hoping McLaren can improve their package for 2022. Seeing Lando and Daniel fight the RB17(?)’s and the F1 W13(?)’s for victories would make the 2022 season better than 2021 – now that would be something!

    1. @danieljaksa Lando has been developing so well, it has been a pleasure watching him come through both success and adversity with class. He really has the right stuff. I was very glad when he and Ricciardo were made team mates, as I think that they will be very good for each other and the team. Ricciardo certainly had his hands full coming to terms with the car this season, but now they are on a more even footing, and I am excited by their positive attitude. Definitely they were my favorite match up to watch this year, and I hope they will continue on an upward trajectory. Both of them are future champs in my estimation, but Lando has the advantage of youth. What will happen? :)

  8. Very clear win for Lando. I think he’s smarter than he lets on. He often comes across as a bit ignorant of the world around him on interviews and Grill the Grid etc, but he knows how to drive a car. He is young and maybe as he gets older he will enhance his savvy and competitive edge.

  9. Riccardo was absolutely terrible this year. A fluke win does nothing to soften that.

    1. Ricciardo deserved the monza win and would’ve won even without verstappen’s problem by my reckoning, but yes, I wasn’t convinced he had fixed his issues after monza, and indeed that’s what happened.

    2. Fluke win? He won it on merit. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  10. It was bound to happen… you jump a few too many poles and you’re bound to land on one. This was one of those ouch moments for Ricciardo!

  11. I know that Ricciardo had a poor season this year, even given allowances for joining a new team, but lets not forget that this is a driver who was only slightly below Verstappen when they shared a car. Possibly his career is on a downward trajectory but I think equalling or even beating Norris next year when they both have new cars is more likely.

  12. Monza and Hungary were the best races this year. I absolutely loved Ricciardo’s performance in Italy. It totally makes up for the horrible season he has had.

  13. He scored that win becaise norris was leashed, he didnt get permission to overtake while hebwas faster

  14. Here’s a quick summary: Just as Vettel got ‘Ricciardo’d’, Ricciardo got ‘Lando’d’.

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