Daniel Ricciardo has waited a long time for another win in Formula 1. Almost as long as his team, McLaren. He himself was last on the top of the podium before the Italian GP in Monaco 2018, his team in Brazil 2012.
But how did Daniel Ricciardo really come back so triumphantly after the summer break?
He decided to switch from his first racing team, Red Bull, to Renault (now Alpine) for the 2019 season. He achieved two podiums in two seasons with the French team, but no race wins. For the 2021 season, he then switched to McLaren because “They [McLaren] were the team that made the most noise – Mercedes won the championship again – but it was quite clear to most that McLaren was the team that made the biggest step out of all.”
It was clear to see that he struggled in his current team before the summer break: He was out qualified 9 times by his younger teammate Lando Norris, who celebrated 3 podiums during the 1st half of the season. Daniel Ricciardo achieved his best result with a 5th place in Great Britain. His worst result before the break was 14th place for the Styrian GP.
Tom Stallard, his race engineer and an employee at McLaren since 2008, admits in an interview on the Formula 1 website that he thinks “the Bahrain race he [Daniel Ricciardo] did quite well, but that was with a lot of time in the car in the [Bahrain] test.”
Credit: Clive Mason via Getty Images
In Imola, it became clear that there were problems Daniel Ricciardo had with the car. As a result, strategic changes and plans were made to address these shortcomings and simplify the driving of the MCLM35. Nevertheless, Daniel’s disappointment and dissatisfaction was palpable, precisely because it often didn’t seem to the outside world that anything was changing internally.
Stallard, however, also says that “We have a car that understeers and that’s been something that he’s had to adapt to and modify his natural approach to get the best out of”. All drivers would opt for the same thing, “which is very good rear stability, and front end that increases as you add steer.” This, he says, is the “holy grail” of engineering behind modern Formula 1 cars.
Especially after the summer break, a change in Ricciardo’s adaptation and handling of the car has become visible. This includes the high work ethic that Stallard praises when talking about the driver: “And at no point during the phase where he was getting up to speed with our package did he question that there was any kind of, the team backing the other driver, or the engineers didn’t know what they were doing, or the car was set-up wrong. He just knuckled down, got on with the work, and I think that the whole team has a lot of respect for him for that.”
Ricciardo himself says about the break that it did him a lot of good. He was able to leave Europe and clear his head in Los Angeles. It has become apparent that being able to take a deep breath gave him back his confidence and you could see that in the first races after the break:
In Spa, he qualified in P4 and finished the race, which was held only particular due to rain, in this position. The track in Zandvoort for the Dutch GP did not suit either McLaren – but then came Monza. Daniel Ricciardo qualified in P5, drove up to 3rd place in the sprint race and won the Italian GP on Sunday.
Tom Stallard says about his effort that “Daniel’s easy to work with, because if you give him a problem to solve, he goes away and works at it, so the work ethic’s always been good, which makes life easy”.
All these components now slowly but surely coming together means that Daniel Ricciardo is now an 8-time race winner and has teamed up with Lando Norris at Monza for the 1st 1-2 finish for McLaren since 2010 in Canada.
However, the race weekend in Russia was also a success for Ricciardo, finishing an exciting race for the team in Sochi in 4th place. Yet, he admitted “there is still some stuff missing”.
About the future, Tom Stallard says: “And I also think that on any journey, although I describe it as a linear process, there’s still ups and downs, and there’ll be events in the future that are more difficult and that we’ll have to respond to and react to. It would be naive to think it’s plain sailing from here – but I think that it’s a good next step”.
This leaves F1 fans with an exciting prospect about the future of Daniel Ricciardo as a McLaren driver and Formula 1 pilot.
Headline Image – Credit: Jennifer Lorenzini via Reuters
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