Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo switched from Renault to McLaren in 2021. In doing so, hoping he could give the Woking team better results again. Although he briefly achieved that goal by winning the Italian Grand Prix in his first season with the team, it proved to be one of the few highlights. The Australian even now struggles to conclusively explain quite why he struggled at Woking so much, apart from a lack of confidence highlighted by his McLaren cars; the Australian eventually pointed the finger at this factor as the main struggle.
Indeed, his younger teammate Lando Norris managed to consistently both qualify and beat him. As a result, for next season, the Formula 1 driver has been dropped by McLaren, in favour of compatriot Oscar Piastri, an F3 and F2 champion.
Ricciardo explained to the presenter of podcast ‘Beyond The Grid’, Tom Clarkson, what he believes caused his problems at McLaren:
“I think we were struggling on both sides. In terms of the team trying to understand where it was and then how it could be updated and improved. But from my side, I’m also like, ‘OK, I’m not perfect. Of course I have some weaknesses, but this car happens to expose some of them.'”
A difficult McLaren car
The Australian further described a general lack of “feel” and “feedback” behind the wheel. In particular, he fell over steering in the corners:
“That’s where it all starts. If you struggle with a corner at the exit, it’s normally the result of what happened in the corner putting you in a difficult position at the exit. Most difficulties start at the entrance. Maybe not all, but most,” said Ricciardo, who will rejoin Red Bull in 2023 in the reserve driver role.
Ricciardo did add that, despite FIA-imposed new technical rules in 2022, including a switch to ground-effect aerodynamics and revised bodywork with larger wheels, his struggles this year were basically the same as the year before:
“I could honestly reverse everything and just say it’s down to confidence, because I miss that extra bit of feeling with the car to go to the limit. Knowing what I’m going to get.”
“Unfortunately, there were very few laps this year where I crossed the line with: ‘That was a good lap!'”
McLaren upgrades made it worse
Ricciardo also pointed to a significant upgrade package McLaren brought to the Spanish Grand Prix, including changes to the front and rear wings, suspension, floor, sidepods, engine cover, diffuser and more:
“We had updates around Barcelona. Then I started struggling even more. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but the gap to Norris started getting bigger again,” the 33-year-old explained.
“Until then, I felt I was always within a tenth or two of Lando. “
Actually, Ricciardo can’t quite put his finger on it, saying, “I wonder a bit, did we just get lost along the way”.
Being careful not to make a clear accusation against McLaren he admits that i “did I start trying too hard then? Were we trying too hard to engineer it and get away from, say, my strengths?
“Were we trying to drive the car in a certain way, which maybe was a weakness for me and something I couldn’t really grasp? I don’t know, it’s: interesting.” His conclusion about his time at McLaren summed up:
“But, let’s say, I didn’t find a way to become one with this car often enough.”