Daniel Ricciardo says McLaren’s Italian Grand Prix performance is “encouraging” ahead of his switch to the British squad for the 2021 season.
McLaren weren’t just ‘best of the rest’ behind the top three last weekend, they were comfortably the second quickest team behind pacesetters Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz qualifying third behind Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Sainz quickly moved up to second, before team-mate Lando Norris, who started sixth, was third by the end of the first lap and the pair were slowly pulling away from the chasing pack.
Sainz would go on to finish second behind winner Pierre Gasly, with Norris fourth, however their result was most likely negatively impacted by the Safety Car and red flag, with Norris believing a podium was possible.
Speaking after the race, Ricciardo, who will replace Sainz and McLaren next season, was left impressed.
“I believe they were second and third before the stop, so maybe it could have been an even a better day,” said the Renault driver.
“They had pace all weekend. I knew that they would be competitive here, but I did not expect the performance they showed, not only today but [Saturday]. So they certainly found a bit here.
“It is encouraging, it is a big result.”
Ricciardo was able to observe how the McLaren handled during the race and was also impressed by its high-speed cornering.
“I did not have Lando directly in front of me but he was just in front of Perez and Bottas, so I could see him a little bit as well,” explained the Australian. “I would say the same, the higher-speed corners, either everyone is stronger or that is an area where we lack of it for now. So that seemed to be a strength of McLaren today.
“We were still there but did not have that extra bit, that we kind of surprised ourselves with last weekend. We were able to make a lower downforce car work in Spa. We ran less wing than pretty much anybody. With bigger gains in sector one and three, and not a massive loss in sector two.
“Here everyone runs low downforce, so our gain on the straights was significantly smaller. And then the cars with more downforce are able to carry a bit more through the medium and high speed. In the race I felt we were pretty good in the low-speed, and under braking for turn one. I felt I was competitive. If I was behind Perez or Bottas. But where they would stretch away was Asacari and Parabolica. Those higher-speed corners.”