Daniel Ricciardo was a “man on a mission” at Italian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo was a “man on a mission” at Italian Grand Prix

Speaking at the MTC, Daniel Ricciardo says he was a “man on a mission” at the Italian Grand Prix, with a “burning feeling inside” to succeed.

Last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix provided us with the surprise of the season, a McLaren 1-2 finish led by none other than Daniel Ricciardo himself.

Throughout the course of the weekend, both Ricciardo and teammate, Lando Norris, looked strong during practice, qualifying and the Sprint. At a track suited to the characteristics of the McLaren MCL35M, they had the pace in hand to put up a good fight with Red Bull and Mercedes.

But while it has been Norris who has led the team throughout much of the season in terms of points and race results, Ricciardo looked to be the stronger of the two at Monza. If only by a fraction.

The Australian has enjoyed a surge in confidence since returning from the summer break at Spa, with the gap to Norris decreasing substantially. He has seen a boost in on track performance as he finally looks to be getting comfortable with the MCL35M. Leading to his lap times being close to, if not better, than Norris’.

Asked what had come together to put him in position for a win at the Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo replied:

“I mean, it is the product of definitely like, let’s say hard work, the first part of the season and it’s been you know playing catch up because it started a bit on the back foot,” Ricciardo said. “But that’s through no fault of anyone’s it’s just me trying to adapt to the car and the team. They’ve been really supportive throughout, and I think that’s been some of the internal frustration is that everything around me feels great. It’s just the results weren’t there to kind of complete the picture.

“So then like August break just getting away from it I think was a chance to just like also decompress switch off and reset. And then I don’t’ know, coming into Belgium I just already felt like personally just felt more kind of game for it. And I think with that, I kind of drew some confidence, and then Monza I felt like, from first practice, the car felt pretty good also. You know, we could be on here. And then again drew more confidence from that.

‘Then I don’t know Friday evening I was just pretty dark after the qualifying or whatever we call it on Friday, fast practice. I just like yeah just something in me I was like, I just don’t want to be here anymore in terms of like, I want to win, I want to be the guy. You know being close, it just fuelled me more than anything, and obviously it was good and the team like you know it’s a good session you should be happy. And I appreciate that it was relative to this year it was a good session. But just I don’t know, that’s when the competitor in me just really came out.

“I can’t even explain it but it’s just like something like a burning feeling inside me and I was just like nup, it’s not good enough. I was like blinkers on for the rest of the weekend and it’s easy to say now because I won, but like, honestly, there was something that came over me, particularly after Friday evening and I was just, I guess a man on a mission.”

Ricciardo’s win at Monza is the Woking-based team’s first win since Jenson Button’s at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. While it was also McLaren’s first 1-2 finish since the Canadian Grand Prix back in 2010.

Sunday’s race provided Ricciardo with a much-needed boost in confidence, while also taking some of the pressure off McLaren, as they make their way back towards the front of the competitive pack in Formula 1.

Since being recruited into the team as Team Principal, Andreas Seidl, along with CEO Zak Brown have started to right what was a quickly sinking ship. Having gone years without a grand prix win, let alone a Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championship, things were looking bleak for the once great F1 team.

Throw in some new drivers, equipped with a redesigned car, including new chassis and Renault power unit, a reshuffle of the structure of the team and improvements to outdated equipment at the MTC, and McLaren seemed to have flipped a switch.

They have been on an upwards trajectory since 2019, securing ‘best of the rest’ in 2020, an accomplishment they are determined to repeat in 2021. Further developments have also taken place with a switch to Mercedes power for the foreseeable future, along with the construction of their own wind tunnel.

Having only been at McLaren for six months, Ricciardo has already seen the liveliness return to Woking, with an appreciation of what it must have been like for team members going through McLaren’s rough patch of recent years.

“I know what I feel and I’ve been here six months,” Ricciardo continued. “So, members of the team have been here more than a decade, two decades even, like it’s crazy, especially let’s say the rough patch that’s been the last five to eight years.

“Yeah, like even just being around the factory today you see so much joy and happiness and even just relief on some people. And I think I was caught up in everything on Sunday but also, to be here and to have the team back in the winner’s circle, it’s been a ride. And again that’s just for me being here, you know, six months, imagine everyone else so it’s, it’s just a lot of good emotions right now.”