McLaren: Fight not over between Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris

McLaren: Fight not over between Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris

The fight between McLaren teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris is not over, with just 0.002s separating the pair during qualifying at the British Grand Prix.

The 2021 Formula 1 season has seen McLaren driver Lando Norris dominate his new teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. Except for a few occasions, there has simply been no comparison between the two. With Norris putting on the best performance of his young F1 career, currently sitting fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.

However, while Ricciardo has yet to shine at McLaren, things may hopefully be about to change for the Australian. FP1 at Silverstone for this weekend’s British Grand Prix saw him finish ninth in the standings.

That was backed up by one of his strongest qualifying sessions to date, finishing just 0.002s behind Norris to secure seventh on the grid. A big improvement from Ricciardo, considering he has been knocked out in Q2 with times averaging 0.5s behind Norris for much of the season.

But, while he hasn’t shown the progress that the team would have liked or expected, Ricciardo has managed to improve slowly over time. As he continues to try and adjust to the ‘unique driving style’ required of the MCL35M.

Speaking after qualifying at Silverstone, Ricciardo had mixed emotions, disappointed with his final Q3 time.

“I’m mixed right now, because it was actually good,” said Ricciardo. “We had a good feeling and good pace and just the last run, I think there was some time on the table. I see how close it is and when you see fourth so close… right now I feel like I know where that [time] is.”

There has been much conjecture surrounding drivers’ potential strategies, with the first of three sprint-qualifying races to take place this weekend. Will drivers play it safe in an attempt to avoid damage, potentially ruining their starting position for Sunday? Or, will we see the opposite, where at least some of the drivers come out blazing, in order to try and boost their place on the grid for Sunday?

We are likely to see a combination of both strategies. With the front-runners still trying to outdo each other, without taking unnecessary risks. While drivers further back in the field try to push their way through.

When it comes to Ricciardo’s strategy, it seems like he is happy to employ a little bit of both, while still taking a sensible approach.

“You’ve got to be a little bit smart about the main points on Sunday, so you don’t want to ruin yourself for Sunday if you know what I mean and do something silly,” said Ricciardo. “But I see it as an opportunity to start further up the grid on Sunday. I’m excited for the format. I like having one practice straight into quali, I think that’s kind of fun.

“So it’s been a good day – I’m obviously just frustrated with such small margins. Looking at the last two qualifying’s, seventh is great, but I feel it’s also a slight missed opportunity. I think we could have looked a lot better tomorrow – I say a lot better, obviously as tight as it is, all we needed was that last little bit and it’s a few more spots up the grid.

“But it’s all good, we’ll kick on tomorrow and put on a good start for the fans, upset some people and then get everyone cheering.”

One of Ricciardo’s strengths this year has been his ability to move up through the field, gaining multiple positions during the opening laps. A strong start during the sprint qualifying race could bode well for him. Helping to take the pressure off the need to make those early moves in Sunday’s race. While at the same time, providing Ricciardo with his best chance yet to challenge Norris.