January 13, 2023

Ricciardo: Current F1 form is a ‘sad reality’ for now

The Australian has endured a tougher than expected time in getting used to the unique characteristics of the McLaren F1 car this year.

And while he has made some progress in adjusting his driving style to try to get on top of the MCL35M, he still has not found a big enough breakthrough to be able to consistently match teammate Lando Norris.

After another disappointment in qualifying at the Hungaroring, as he just failed to make it through to Q3 and lines up 11th on the grid, Ricciardo says he is having to accept that what he is showing at the moment is no longer unusual.

“I don’t want to draw a line under it, like this is definitive and this is what it is, but more often than not this year it’s been the case,” he said. “There’s still some things with the car [I have to get on top of].

“I’ll be able to put a lap together, but at this level, when everyone is obviously doing well and pretty familiar with the equipment now, it’s sometimes not enough or too often not enough.

“I think it’s just trying to extract a bit more confidence in the car through feel, and I guess that feel comes through setup and stuff like that. But it is a bit of a sad reality for the moment.”

Ricciardo says one of the hardest things to deal with is that there has not been a consistent trend with the progress he has made in understanding the car.

And it is also further complicated by him struggling only sometimes in the medium and slow speed corners where the McLaren itself is not as strong compared to the opposition.

“I look back at Bahrain, first qualifying of the year, and I think I was P6 or something, and I was like: ‘all right, I’m only going to learn the car more and then get stronger from here.’

“But then you kind of have two steps back, and then maybe you get a good one [forward] in Barcelona. The trend is not that consistent in that sometimes the high-speed corners are good, sometimes the low speed are.

“Ultimately, it’s just been quite tricky to drive but also just to really deal with and find the limit. Some days when it’s feeling alright I’m able to push it up there and let’s say drive more on instinct. But then I think too often it’s a little bit reactive.

“Obviously it’s been too often that than not. But I don’t want to draw a line and be like, this is how it’s going to be forever in time. I want it to get better ASAP. But, yeah, for now it’s slow and steady.”

McLaren is clear that Ricciardo’s difficulties are related to the special characteristics of its car, and have nothing to do with him potentially have a chassis problem or other issue with parts.

Team principal Andreas Seidl says the team has rotated chassis this season as part of its normal process, and it showed nothing wrong with the equipment.

“As part of our normal programme on how we use our parts, there is a scheduled rotation of monocoques as well,” he said. “On Daniel’s side we already changed two times this year and there’s nothing on that side.

“We clearly see what the issues are that Daniel is also describing, and that has nothing to do with parts. It has to do with characteristics of our car. And in the end it’s a combination of Daniel still getting used to our car, but at the same time he also has a teammate that is in an unbelievable form. And that’s why we see this gap from time to time.”

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