Daniel Ricciardo says the midseason break gave him time to step away from Formula 1, returning to McLaren with a fresh approach.
Coming a consistent second place to teammate Lando Norris was as much a surprise to the fans and F1 pundits alike. Not to mention likely Ricciardo himself.
The Australian has continued to struggle getting accustomed to the MCL35M. With balance and braking issues hampering his development. While he has shown what appeared to be improvements at certain tracks throughout the year, he has failed to remain consistent.
However, Ricciardo says being able to step away from F1 and have a proper break allowed him to get into a new mindset to tackle the remainder of the season ahead.
“I think having the break was a good thing.” Ricciardo said. “It was a time to just step back and even during the season, even if you got a weekend off, you’re kind of still in it. Where the forced shutdown forces you to forget about the sport for a bit and just remove yourself, and look from kind of a different point of view. And that was cool to just kind of step back and come into Spa with, yes, I’ll simply just call it a fresh approach.
“I was building up to it. Qualifying, Q1 was a bit off, Q2 was a bit better and Q3 was a step again, so you know, I still wouldn’t say I’m maximising everything but it was definitely a step in the right direction. So happy to have another couple in quick succession with here [Zandvoort] and Monza next week.”
The Belgian Grand Prix saw him lag towards the middle and back of the field during the practice sessions. A step up in qualifying was an unexpected surprise, with Ricciardo progressing through each session to finish P4 overall.
After securing his highest qualifying result with McLaren to date, it was disappointing not to be able to see if he could further capitalise on the position, by fighting for a podium finish.
The upcoming Dutch Grand Prix will challenge Ricciardo and McLaren further. Zandvoort lacks the high-speed straights of Spa, and has far tighter cornering. While the MCL35M is more at home at tracks such as Spa and Monza.
Despite the different track layout at this weekend’s race, Ricciardo is excited to push himself with some of the corners and banking that are unique to Zandvoort.
“I’m excited, for sure. You’d think as a driver, I’ve raced here in ’09 – so quite a lot of time ago now – and I don’t actually remember that much of the circuit,” he continued. “Obviously, we did some prep before coming here to refamiliarise but I think going in F1, like getting into a new circuit again, trying to learn a couple of techniques and a few tricks around a new track is always exciting. It’s fun, and you’re trying to do like some problem-solving in a way, to figure out the best line, what kerb to take, and that’s fun.
“Doing the track walk this morning was cool as [there are] some really different corners. I would say some that we don’t get on other tracks around the world and some of the banking and the direction changes are really cool, quite high speed.”
McLaren head into the Dutch Grand Prix with a 3.5 point lead of rivals Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.