'Knife edge': Daniel Ricciardo lifts lid on McLaren struggles

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Daniel Ricciardo says rear braking and stability are his biggest issues in the early days of his stint with McLaren. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)
Daniel Ricciardo says rear braking and stability are his biggest issues in the early days of his stint with McLaren. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo says driving the 2021 McLaren at the limit is like being on a 'knife edge' as he continues to get to grips with his new F1 team.

The Australian star has been outpointed by incumbent teammate Lando Norris through the first three rounds of the 2021 F1 season, finishing ninth in last weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix.

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Ricciardo has spoken openly about the ongoing need to adapt his own driving style to the McLaren, having gone through the same process once before after switching from Red Bull to Renault in 2019.

In his first three starts for McLaren, Ricciardo has finished seventh, sixth and ninth.

Norris on the other hand, scored a podium in the Bahrain season opener and has outqualified Ricciardo at twice in three races.

Speaking after Sunday's race, in which he recovered from a disastrous 16th place in qualifying to finish in the points, Ricciardo said he was still struggling with confidence in the rear of the car as well as braking in an interview with Motorsport Magazine.

“To be honest, just locking — locking brakes,” he said.

“Well, it’s a bit of locking and sometimes it’s losing the rear.

“But there’s a fine line, I guess. And I think probably there’s a period in the kind of entry phase (into corners) where the car is on a knife-edge.

“And I feel like there’s probably a set-up solution where I can just open that and not be on such a knife’s edge, because it is really sensitive."

Ricciardo, a seven-time F1 grand prix winner, admitted Norris had a better handle of the car's characteristics.

The 31-year-old said he would take some setup cues from Norris, considering the British young gun's superior pace thus far.

“I think Lando is certainly able to drive around that better than me at the moment. And probably to fast track my learning, I can just try something with set-up that opens our window, and it’s probably with the suspension or something like that," he said.

“We’re kind of not trying to go too far away from Lando, because obviously he’s on top of it and driving well. 

"But I think today I learned a few things that maybe I can start to, let’s say set it up to suit me and see how that goes in Barcelona.”

McLaren optimistic Daniel Ricciardo will regain F1 form

Ricciardo joined McLaren for the 2021 season after two lucrative seasons with Renault, who he joined in 2019.

While his first season with Renault was a disappointment, improvements to the car and Ricciardo's increased feel for it led to two podium finished for the French manufacturer, the first time they'd reached the podium since 2016.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said he was confident Ricciardo would be able to unlock the full potential of the car in short order.

“It’s something which just doesn’t allow him to continuously push the car at the limit, because for him in certain dynamic conditions it’s like driving on a knife’s edge.

McLaren's Zak Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl are confident Daniel Ricciardo can get to grips with the car. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
McLaren's Zak Brown and team principal Andreas Seidl are confident Daniel Ricciardo can get to grips with the car. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

“But that’s definitely something where I think we made already steps for this weekend, together with him, despite the disappointment in qualifying.

“And we simply have to keep working together with him in order to improve this situation.

“As always, there’s the driver’s side, but obviously we also look deeply on the team side into this, and see how we can help him with improvements we bring to the car, with set-up changes, in order to lift the performance.”

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