Formula One journalist David Tremayne has revealed the unseen "inner torment" that propelled Daniel Ricciardo to turn his season around at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Ricciardo headed into the 2021 season as McLaren's No.1 driver ahead of teammate Lando Norris.
However Norris completely outdrove Ricciardo in the first few races of the season, reportedly leaving the Australian driver "distraught".
Ricciardo finished ninth, seventh and sixth to start the season while Norris was third, fourth and fifth.
And according to Tremayne, Ricciardo let his emotions overflow after the season's third race at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
“The inner torment was there for all to see,” Tremayne revealed about Ricciardo.
“His distraught expression said it all: I’m Daniel Ricciardo, a seven-time Grand Prix winner and Max Verstappen’s toughest teammate to date, so how did it get to this?
"And how am I going to dig my way out of it?”
Tremayne said the result in Portugal made Ricciardo think: “This is what losing really looks like”.
However the Aussie star flipped the script in Spain to finish sixth, two places ahead of teammate Norris.
McLaren even ordered Norris to let Ricciardo pass him late in the race - a huge shock after the opposite occurred at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“If Daniel’s homework was to be marked on his Spanish GP performance, as he learns to reprogram his natural style to suit the aerodynamics, braking, turn-in and engine braking characteristics of a very different car that is possibly more sensitive to certain driver inputs than the Renault he drove last year, he’d be seen to have improved from C in Imola and B- in Portugal to A- in Spain. And earned a Gold Star for effort,” Tremayne wrote.
“It looks like one of the most popular figures on the grid is back in business - just in time for Monaco.”
Red Bull looking for more pace to match Mercedes
Meanwhile, Red Bull wants to find more race pace to keep contending with Mercedes for the F1 title.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen had another promising start to the weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, but again it was Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton celebrating the victory on raceday.
It was a similar outcome to the previous race, with Red Bull looking closer than ever to Mercedes but not being able to finish in front.
“It’s been like this a little bit so far this year, where it seems like qualifying we are quite competitive, and in the race struggling a bit more,” Verstappen said.
“We just need a faster car, it’s very simple, then you don’t need to get into a situation like that, and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
Hamilton’s win in Barcelona was his third in four races this season, with Verstappen’s lone victory coming in Italy in the championship's second race.
Hamilton also won in Portugal and at the season-opener in Bahrain, when Verstappen started from pole position.
with Associated Press
Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.