McLaren lifts lid on problems with Ricciardo

1 month ago 7
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A senior McLaren executive has given a detailed insight into the struggles facing Daniel Ricciardo in 2021.

The Australian has been left in the wake of teammate Lando Norris, who has scored 113 points to Ricciardo's 50 this season.

Crucially, Norris, who is in his third season with McLaren, has never driven for another team, meaning the idiosyncrasies of the car are all he knows.

Ricciardo, by contrast, is with his third different outfit in four seasons, with each team requiring a change to his natural driving style.

In an interview with motorsport.com, McLaren's Andrea Stella says the different characteristics of the car can't be underestimated.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen drive during the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary. (Getty)

"(Ricciardo) came from the opposite end in terms of how you would like to drive an F1 car," he said. "Our car requires some special adaptation, let's say.

"I think it's no secret that our car is good in high-speed corners for example. It may not be the best car when you have to roll speed in the corner, as another example.

"So while we are trying to adjust some of the characteristics to make it a little bit more natural to drive, at the same time, the most important thing is to deliver aerodynamic efficiency."

In an interview with Wide World of Sports last month, nine-time grand prix winner Mark Webber described how Ricciardo was struggling on the entry to corners, particularly those that required a significant change of direction.

Webber said the difficulty getting the car into the apex made the rest of the corner especially tricky.

Stella pointed out that Ricciardo's natural style simply doesn't suit the McLaren, and fixing the problem would take some time.

Daniel Ricciardo (Getty)

"He is a driver who likes to roll the speed in the corner, not necessarily attack the braking, as much as our car requires," he said.

"And I think we understood very quickly what the issue was, in terms of exploiting all the speed.

"And understanding this is good, in a way we could model this aspect, which means then you know what to do in terms of working on the simulator, working in terms of coaching the driver to some aspects.

"And so this is in hand, and this is understood. But in F1 the progress that we see is not necessarily like a switch from race to race."

Daniel Ricciardo driving his McLaren during qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of France. (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Not only has Ricciardo had to adapt his style to a new car, he's had to do so in a period where his time in the car is limited.

Pre-season testing was limited to just three days, to be shared between both drivers, while Friday practice sessions are not only shorter than ever before, but vital preparation time for the weekend ahead, hardly the ideal place to be trying to overhaul your natural style.

"Sometimes I make the example of a musician," said Stella.

Daniel Ricciardo drives his McLaren at the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary. (Getty)

"You can tell him how to play a guitar, you can use a lot of theory, but at some stage, you will have to spend quite a lot of time with the guitar and make quite a lot of exercise.

"And you don't necessarily take a step in a concert, most of the progress you make you make it when you work in the background at home, and you spend hours and hours exercising."

Stella pointed out that the idiosyncrasies of this year's McLaren have been honed over a number of years, making it impossible to adapt the car to suit Ricciardo's style. Instead, the Australian must find a way to get the best out of the McLaren.

"We've been scratching our heads, how long do these characteristics go back in time? How much have we embedded some of the characteristics?" Stella asked.

"I think it goes back to some seasons before the current season.

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo at the British Grand Prix (Getty)

"There are some cars that can generate a lot of their laptime in a corner, and there are some cars that can generate a lot of the laptime, for example, in the straight line part of braking."

Despite the struggles, Stella says the team has no regrets over the move to recruit Ricciardo.

"We do see progress step-by-step," he said. "And we also see the race craft of Daniel, which is very complete. So if anything, the key bit we need to add at the moment is that little bit of speed," he said.

"Somehow we keep enjoying the journey. I'm very optimistic for the future."

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