Ricciardo relishes ‘fun’ run to sixth in France, as McLaren car ‘starts to feel more like home’
Daniel Ricciardo has made no secret of his struggles in getting to grips with McLaren’s MCL35M this season, but after disappointing races in Monaco and Azerbaijan, he looked very much the Honey Badger of old in Sunday’s French Grand Prix.
Starting P10, a racy performance from Ricciardo saw him pull off several of his trademark late-braking passes, including on the sister McLaren of Lando Norris into the very first corner. And though he ultimately came home just behind his team mate after a much earlier tyre change, there was no hiding that famous Aussie grin after the flag fell at Paul Ricard.
“It was fun – battled, fought, talked some smack, elbows out and then had to hold off a fast-charging (Pierre) Gasly and (Fernando) Alonso at the end,” said Ricciardo, after finishing sixth to Norris’ fifth, following notable overtakes on the likes of world champions Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
“I’m happy just to have had a fun Sunday with some battles and all of it, so came home with some good points for the team – they’re obviously stoked, fifth and sixth – so good day for us considering where we started, and I guess (with) where some of our rivals ended it was a big one.”
The ‘big one’ for Ricciardo was that he looked to have confidence in his car from the moment the lights went out, something that had been lacking in his first year with McLaren thus far as he’s tried to adapt his driving style to the MCL35M.
“Yeah, after the frustrations of Monaco, I kind of took a step back and was like ‘big picture’ – I know that it’s going to come and I know that if I keep persisting… I think like staying resilient through it all, days like this will come and I will be able to battle, pull off some moves and all that sort of stuff.
“So this car will feel like home and I think today it started to feel a little more like home – and the next two (races) coming up are hopefully fun ones as well, with some good moves, battles – and it’s nice seeing the others suffer a little bit more than us as well.”
Those suffering more were, in particular, Ferrari – McLaren’s closest rivals in the title race. While the Woking team took home 18 points from Le Castellet, the Scuderia failed to score, meaning McLaren extended their P3 advantage in the standings to 16 points.