‘It was something I couldn’t really grasp’ – Ricciardo pinpoints the main cause of his struggles during two-year stint at McLaren
Daniel Ricciardo has opened up about the challenges he faced during his short-lived spell with McLaren, explaining to the Beyond The Grid podcast that cornering limitations and a subsequent lack of confidence were key factors.
Ricciardo joined McLaren from Renault in 2021 with the hope of returning the Woking team to winning ways and, while he achieved that goal by winning the Italian Grand Prix in his first season onboard, it proved to be one of few highlights.
Indeed, younger team mate Lando Norris consistently out-qualified and out-raced the experienced Australian, who was ultimately dropped in favour of compatriot Oscar Piastri – an F3 and F2 champion – for the 2023 campaign.
Asked by Beyond The Grid host Tom Clarkson to explain the root cause of his problems, particularly with McLaren’s 2022 challenger, Ricciardo described a general lack of “feel” and “feedback” behind the wheel and homed in on corner entry.
“It all starts there. If you struggle with a corner on the exit, normally it’s a product of what’s happened through the corner that’s put you in a position of, let’s say, difficulty on the exit. Most difficulties start on the entry – maybe not all, but most,” said Ricciardo, who will rejoin Red Bull in 2023 in a third driver role.
“It is kind of an entry thing, but it’s more just like a feel and a limitation. I also look back at my very first race with McLaren, [when] I out-qualified Lando. That was when I was still fairly ‘green’ with the car, if you know what I mean. I kind of wonder, did we just get lost along the way?
“Did I then start to try too hard, did we try to engineer it too hard, and get away from, let’s say, my strengths and then try to drive the car a certain way, [which was] maybe a weakness for me, and something that I couldn’t really grasp. I don’t know, it’s an interesting one.
“I think on both ends we struggled, in terms of the team trying to understand what it was and how to then update it and improve it. But from my side I’m also like, ‘Okay, I’m not perfect. Sure, I’ve got some weaknesses, this car happens to expose a few of them.’ But, let’s say, I still didn’t find a way to gel at one with this car often enough.”
Ricciardo added that, despite this year’s rules reset, which included a move to ground effect aerodynamics, revised bodywork and bigger wheels, his struggles were fundamentally the same throughout both the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“The cars certainly behaved a bit differently, but I would say the DNA of the car is still the same. Where I would struggle, it was ultimately the same thing,” he commented.
“I could honestly just strip it all back and just say it’s confidence, because I lack that extra bit of feel with the car to put it on the very limit and to know what I’m going to get. There were very few laps this year unfortunately where I crossed the line and [thought], ‘That was a good lap!’”
Ricciardo also pointed to a significant upgrade package that McLaren brought to the Spanish Grand Prix, which encompassed changes to the front and rear wings, suspension, floor, sidepods, engine cover, diffuser and more, as the moment his 2022 form took a turn for the worse.
“We brought updates around Barcelona and it was then that I started to struggle a bit more. I don’t know if that was a coincidence, but the gap [to Norris] started to increase again,” the 33-year-old explained.
“Up until then I felt like I was always within a tenth or two of Lando, and we were kind of going a bit more nip and tuck. That’s where it started to separate again.”
To hear Ricciardo’s full Beyond The Grid interview – which also covers his thoughts on leaving Red Bull back in 2018, his advice for replacement Oscar Piastri and much, much more – hit go in the player below, or head here to catch it on your preferred platform.