Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Monza, 2021

Ricciardo’s 2021 struggles helped him ‘find out what I’m good at’

2021 F1 Season

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Daniel Ricciardo says his struggles through the 2021 season helped him to understand what his strengths and weaknesses are as a driver.

Speaking on the Gypsy Tales podcast, Ricciardo discussed his challenge adapting to his new car and team throughout the season.

Ricciardo said working out how to extract the maximum speed from the McLaren helped him to realise what his strengths behind the wheel are.

“After racing in F1, at least, for ten years, it was [last] year that I actually found out what I’m good at,” Ricciardo told podcast host Jase Macalpine.

“So through the growing process and trying to get better, driving the McLaren, through my understanding my weaknesses, I also understood my strengths. I went, ‘oh wow, ‘that’ enabled me to do ‘this’ the last few years’. Okay, so that’s what I need in the car because that’s me and that’s what gives me the most kind of natural approach to a corner. So this is what I need to give the engineers. I need to give them this information so I can do that because, yeah, that’s my strength.”

After moving from Red Bull to Renault in 2019 and then signing with McLaren for 2021, Ricciardo says being forced to adjust to new surroundings has challenged him to develop his interpersonal professional skills.

“I think just being in a different room, you’re forced to grow,” Ricciardo said. “You’re going to make new relationships, you’re going to learn how to be a leader or just pick up new skills, people skills, whatever that is. So there’s a lot which just comes with it and that’s exciting.”

Ricciardo also revealed he had put extra pressure on himself to perform at the Italian Grand Prix prior to his eventually winning the race, but that leading was the “most chilled I’d been” all season.

“I definitely had a… chip on my shoulder and I’d given myself the time during the summer break to reset and kind of flush away the shitty first six months,” Ricciardo explained.

“I was just like, ‘this is the weekend. If you’re going to do it, this is the weekend’. It was like a positive pressure where I was nearly angry.

“I was able just to be in the zone. Honestly, I was even singing during the race, I was tapping the steering wheel – like I was just kind of having fun. In a moment where everyone would think ‘this is like the most pressure the car’s had all year, he’s leading’, but it was the most chilled I’d been. And I was so confident, and that was a place where I’d kind of built up to it the whole weekend.

“I think it was also – and this is now the ego – where it’s like a ‘fuck you’ to people who had already written me off.”

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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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18 comments on “Ricciardo’s 2021 struggles helped him ‘find out what I’m good at’”

  1. ‘find out what I’m good at’

    Being a #2 driver? No, wait, Daniel had already learned that at Red Bull.

    1. ‘find out what I’m good at’

      Serving coffee? ;)

  2. If talk were speed he would be champion.

  3. “I definitely had a… chip on my shoulder” … “I think it was also – and this is now the ego – where it’s like a ‘fuck you’ to people who had already written me off.”

    That chip on the shoulder didn’t stay off for long …

  4. Well… I guess I find him too laid back. From any double/multiple champion in I’ve seen in recent years like Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel… they have been so determined, focus, and competitive. Their will to win is just so unbelievable compared to those champions who won only once – Massa, Button, Raikkonen… they lose their drive after winning it all. With a good car, Ricciardo might be like that win once and lose it after.

    1. @sunnysighup I’m reasonably certain that Massa never was the WDC. Well, maybe for about thirty seconds he was.
      Button did at least finish runner up to Vettel in 2011

    2. It’s also perhaps Ricciardo is unfortunately not top tier/elite level. Good yes, great yes, but exceptional? IMO not at the level of Alonso, HAM, VER, Norris, and even Norris.

      If RIC loses to Norris again, then perhaps that’s just the max out of him… no shame though, like I said great driver but then nothing more.

      1. *Russell

  5. He’s mighty proud of leading in Monza and being calm whike doing it but remember Norris was closing on his tail and was ordered not to attack him so the world will never know how much Danny really had in reserve if anything.

    1. Hmm, from rewatching the full race, I think he was managing pace and doing enough to keep Norris behind. I don’t think it was likely Norris was going to pass

    2. Ric was just managing the race, he had plenty in reserve, as shown by the fastest lap on the last lap of the race. Norris was just pushing unnecessarily, maybe if McLaren would have had themselves on the top step twice this year instead of once if Norris was a bit smarter with his tyres.

  6. “For anyone who thought I left, I never left!” – Daniel Ricciardo

    “For whom it may concern, **** you!” – Valtery Bottas

    Maybe they should stop worrying about what other people think.

  7. I wish drivers would explain what ‘this’ and ‘that’ is.

    What are his actual strengths, what minute differences are there to his driving style.

    I wish we would have detailed driver technique analysis avaliable, like we have for aero bits.

    I want to know now fully how Ricciardo approaches a corner.

    1. Yes, I think all racing fans would love to know that sort of detail, or even some hints about it. For instance, it could be fast tracks and judging braking distances vs slow tracks and picking the best line through corners, high grip tracks and fresh tyres vs low grip tracks and worn tyres, setting up the car versus adapting to the handling in race conditions.

      As this discovery year coincided with a team change, I suspect his comment is more to do with car attributes than driving styles. Perhaps the Renault was just like a slower version of a Red Bull so he didn’t really learn anything that time. It has been said that Schumacher (senior) and Hamilton both favour cars with oversteer whereas Rosberg and Button preferred cars which understeer. Maybe the Mclaren is a bit more pointy than he has been used to. Or maybe he means that being against Norris, someone with a similar skill level, and even-handed treatment by the team meant that he had a proper benchmark to judge himself against. It is all relative though. All of the F1 drivers are very fast, no matter what they are sitting in.

    2. Well I don’t think you really want to give away all of what your strengths and particularly your weaknesses are. It’s a competition at the end of the day. If he can point out where the McLaren is better and worse than the Red Bull then Red Bull can know where to improve, for example…

      At the end of the day you can infer this kind of thing from comments and analysis, you don’t need the driver to babysit exposing themselves to you. There’s no secret that low-mid speed corners is particularly where McLaren struggled and Ricciardo struggling even more with that at corner entry.

  8. That was a long and poor quality podcast to struggle through, never knew Ricciardo was such a big fan of Motorcross. Fascinating how some drivers live and breathe their craft but others like Ricciardo value being able to just relax and have fun with it.

  9. He may have won a race, but if he’s not right on it early this next season, all the smiling blokey bloke charm in the world shouldn’t save him from the axe.

    He seems to project that he is a world champion quality, without the results and clearly without the promise he once had. The Red Bull flattered him, from hearing him talk I get the impression he is a good driver with slight ambitions in a field of highly driven, super ambitious great drivers.

    If he was great, he’d be mad as hell and eat, sleep, think, feel that unquenchable burning desire to beat everyone all day every day. Instead, he has a lot of interests, likes being a driver, loves talking about himself as if he is the next big thing.

  10. Find out what I’m good at: being Australian.

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