After a shaky start to the 2021 Formula 1 season, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has bested teammate Lando Norris for the first time at the Spanish GP.
The Spanish GP saw McLaren struggle during the early stages of practice, with the MCL35M seeming to lack the handling it has enjoyed over past weeks.
Both Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris grappled with the setup throughout Friday and Saturday, scoring towards the middle of the pack on the timesheets. Qualifying saw Ricciardo line up on the grid in seventh, while Norris would start the race at ninth. Failing to replicate his earlier Q2 run which saw him sitting at the top of the timesheet.
At a circuit that is notoriously known for difficult overtaking, Ricciardo would come home in sixth place. After battles with Red Bull and Ferrari. While Norris also improved one place from qualifying, finishing eighth.
Ricciardo continues to get up to speed with the MCL35M, after starting the season somewhat slower than perhaps he would have liked. Sunday’s Spanish GP saw the Australian finish ahead of his teammate for the first time in 2021.
“It was a good weekend,” Ricciardo said. “I would say the best weekend so far as a whole and I felt like I got the maximum out of the car today [Sunday]. I was defending the whole time! We jumped a few spots at the start and I think naturally those cars were a little quicker, which left me defending. It meant that the pace was high, and it forced me to push the whole way. I ended up learning even more about the car.
“We’re obviously competitive for points, but we just need that little extra step. Ferrari had a bit more than us today and obviously we know the Red Bull is fast. We know we’ve still got some work to do but all-in-all it was a smooth, well-executed weekend. The team made some good calls for the pit-stops and I think top-six was the best result possible.”
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) May 9, 2021
Constructors’ Championship is heating up
After another close weekend with Ferrari challenging McLaren, the all-important race for third in the Constructor’s Championship is heating up.
Getting the jump early on Ferrari has provided McLaren a buffer during the first few races of the year. However, with the Scuderia starting to dial it in over the past couple of races, the gap between the two teams has been reduced to just five points.
The next round of the F1 season is scheduled for Monaco, another track that can be immensely difficult to overtake at. Even more so than Barcelona. Given that, qualifying will play an important role in McLaren trying to stay ahead of Ferrari.
McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl acknowledged the close battle in the constructors’ standings:
“The team executed a very good race today, resulting in both Daniel and Lando gaining a place on their starting positions after each raced hard from lights to flag,” Seidl said. “Given how difficult overtaking is here in Barcelona, that was pretty much everything possible for us to achieve today. We’re in a very close battle in the Constructors’ Championship and scored strong points on a weekend where we didn’t have the upper hand.”
Heading into Monaco, Ricciardo should carry with him some confidence gained during the Spanish GP. While Norris continues to demonstrate he is operating on another level from his past two seasons. The team will need to continue working as productively as they have in order to stave off the fight from their Italian rivals.