An apparent fuel saving warning error in Daniel Ricciardo’s MCL35M is to blame for the McLaren driver’s lack of pace at the Qatar GP.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Qatar GP went from bad to worse during the first half of Sunday’s race. Starting from 14th on the grid, the Australian was up against it from the beginning. It was hoped he may sneak into the points, finishing just inside the top 10. However, those hopes were dashed on the opening lap, in what we now know was a false fuel saving fault.
Lacking pace during the early stages of the race, spectators and commentators alike were left scratching their heads as to the cause of the dramatic drop off in speed which saw Ricciardo languishing at the rear of the field.
While the fault was rectified part way through the event it would come all too late for Ricciardo, who had been losing over two seconds a lap due to the incorrect reading. Fighting through the back markers, he managed to bring it back up to 12th by the conclusion of the race.
“After the start we had fuel saving from super early in the race,” Ricciardo said after the race. “And I started doing what I thought was already a lot, and it was not enough. So Tom [Stallard, race engineer] said: ‘You need to do more, you need to do more. It’s not enough and blah, blah, blah.’ To a point where I think at times we were losing probably two seconds a lap fuel saving.
“And with that, brakes get cold, tyres get cold, and you lose grip as well, so it’s just kind of a downward spiral. So we were fuel saving for I would say a good half of the race and that just took us way, way out. It’s the most I’ve had to save and the earliest in the race I’ve ever had to save. I was coasting at every corner and it was never enough.
“And then I don’t know what happened with obviously the system, or they got another reading, but then Tom was like: ‘Alright, no more, just push’. And I said: ‘But wait, no fuel saving?’ He goes: ‘No, just push!’ So I was like: ‘I’m so confused…’
“It’s clearly a system error today [Sunday] and it’s a shame because when I could push, I felt the reference time I got at the time I was able to get. But we were I guess at the mercy of an error today with the reading.”
Returning from the summer break with several strong performances, including his maiden win for McLaren at the Italian GP, Ricciardo has dropped off since Austin where he finished fifth. A combination of bad luck, as in Sunday’s case, and underperformance, saw him fail to record any point’s finishes during the now completed triple-header.
McLaren as a whole only managed to secure a total of four points, courtesy of teammate Lando Norris, which has resulted in their Ferrari rivals taking the lead in the race for ‘best of the rest’. With the Scuderia now holding a 39.5 lead with two races left to run, McLaren’s chances of holding on to back-to-back third places finishes in the Constructors’ Championship is all but gone.
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