Sky Sports F1’s Ant Davidson labels the struggles Daniel Ricciardo is enduring with McLaren the ‘biggest surprise of the year’ in Formula 1.
It’s no secret that Daniel Ricciardo has struggled to get comfortable with the MCL35M during his first season with McLaren. His on track performance has seen a dramatic drop off compared with last year at Renault.
Of all the drivers that made team switches over the offseason, he appears to be the last one still battling to get some sort of stability out of his new ride.
Racing is full of anomalies, however one thing is certain, McLaren have a good car for 2021. Proven by the fact that teammate Lando Norris seems to be extracting every possible bit of performance out of the car. With three podiums to his name this year, along with starting last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix from the front row of the grid.
Speaking to the F1 Australian Grand Prix podcast, In the Fast Lane, Sky Sports F1’s presenter Ant Davidson spoke of his surprise surrounding Ricciardo’s continued struggles with McLaren.
“Honestly, that’s one of the biggest surprises of the year. I really thought that Daniel would come in that, at least carry on with how he was doing at Renault or how Carlos Sainz was doing when he was teammates with Lando.
“But Lando’s stepped it up, I don’t think it’s a case of Daniel not necessarily performing, where he really should be.” Davidson said. “I just think Lando has stepped it up, and obviously he knows the car, and Daniel is new to the car and it really does take time and sometimes you just go through your entire time in that car, in that environment.
“I don’t want to be negative. But I’ve been there myself as a driver. You just get in a car, every once in a while in your career, and it just doesn’t work for you. And I fear that that could be happening with Daniel.”
Other than finding it difficult to adjust to the balance and handling characteristics of the MCL35M, with a certain ‘driving style’ required to tame the car. One key feature that Ricciardo has found difficult to deal with, and one that he relies heavily on, are the brakes.
Known throughout the F1 paddock as a late braker, he has found it hard to capitalise on one of his more successful driving aspects. But, while Ricciardo has failed to match Norris during qualifying, he has often managed to work his way through the back of the field to find himself finishing in the points.
“He’s already mentioned that the braking is a problem.” Davidson continued. “I know McLaren use different brake material to other teams and perhaps did compared to Renault and Red Bull. But they have done for a long long time now and you know it’s an old engineer of mine once said to me the corner starts as soon as you hit the brake pedal.
“It’s so true, because you need that feel on the brakes in the way they come in, the way they bite. Whether it bites in the beginning, whether it is more grabby at the end of braking. That, in itself, really dictates your feeling in the car. And if you’ve gone through your entire F1 career, having that feeling on the brake pedal when suddenly it’s different. Well sometimes that experience goes against you in that respect.
“And I feel that that’s what’s going on now with Daniel, and it kind of makes sense that he’s more capable of matching Lando in the race than he is in qualifying, because you’re not right on the limit in the race. You know you’ve got tyre preservation going on there’s a lot more to think about, fuel saving, brake saving, you know, a lot more to think about inside the car. And, you kind of roll your way through into the corners and out of them. Rather than in qualifying, it’s more of a digital process, stamping on the brakes on the throttle, you know, right on the limit of the car.”