McLaren: Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘sad reality’ with the MCL35M

McLaren: Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘sad reality’ with the MCL35M

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo acknowledges it is hard to remain consistent with the MCL35M, as his 2021 struggles continue.

McLaren are yet to see the performance they know Daniel Ricciardo is capable of. At the halfway point of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the Australian is enduring one of his most lacklustre years to date.

He has shown glimpses of his potential in the car from time to time, but for the most part, Ricciardo has found himself starting races from outside the top ten. With poor runs in qualifying hampering his chances of any substantial points finishes.

But, while his points contribution in the Constructors’ Championship will always be welcome, he needs to do more to ensure he is scoring closer to teammate Lando Norris, if McLaren have any hope of beating Ferrari for ‘best of the rest’.

Speaking at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ricciardo spoke of his qualifying struggles and the ‘sad reality’ that is encompassing his current performance.

“I don’t want to draw a line under it, like this is definitive and this is what it is, but more often than not this year it’s been the case,” Ricciardo said. “There’s still some things with the car [I have to get on top of].

“I’ll be able to put a lap together, but at this level, when everyone is obviously doing well and pretty familiar with the equipment now, it’s sometimes not enough or too often not enough.

“I think it’s just trying to extract a bit more confidence in the car through feel, and I guess that feel comes through setup and stuff like that. But it is a bit of a sad reality for the moment.”

Coming off strong performances at Austria and Silverstone, Ricciardo was hoping to keep the momentum going for Hungary. With a good run on the track showing he was finally comfortable with the MCL35M.

However, that would not be the case. After he failed to make Q3, knocked out in Q2 to start the race from 11th.

Norris has shown what the car is capable of and the performance that can be extracted from it. Now into his third season with McLaren, the 21-year-old has had time to become accustomed to the inner workings of the team and has enjoyed ever-increasing car development during his time there.

But while the MCL34/35 were fairly similar in their characteristics, the MCL35M has been hailed as practically a ‘new car’. Given the new chassis and power unit amongst other additions. Norris has well and truly locked down the fundamentals of the car. So why is Ricciardo continuing to struggle?

“I look back at Bahrain, first qualifying of the year, and I think I was P6 or something, and I was like: ‘all right, I’m only going to learn the car more and then get stronger from here,’ Ricciardo continued.

“But then you kind of have two steps back, and then maybe you get a good one [forward] in Barcelona. The trend is not that consistent in that sometimes the high-speed corners are good, sometimes the low speed are.

“Ultimately, it’s just been quite tricky to drive but also just to really deal with and find the limit. Some days when it’s feeling alright I’m able to push it up there and let’s say drive more on instinct. But then I think too often it’s a little bit reactive.

“Obviously it’s been too often that than not. But I don’t want to draw a line and be like, this is how it’s going to be forever in time. I want it to get better ASAP. But, yeah, for now it’s slow and steady.”

With half the races done and dusted for the year, the time for ‘slow and steady’ have come and gone. If Ricciardo has only seen minimal improvement up to now, it is reasonable to say that there is little expectation we will see him fighting at the front throughout the remainder of the season.