McLaren says it is “100 per cent sure” that Daniel Ricciardo’s level of performance will improve in the wake of his relatively subdued start to the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Ricciardo’s Bahrain race was severely compromised by floor damage, sustained when he was tagged by Pierre Gasly, while he lacked overall speed at Imola.
Ricciardo finished Friday’s second practice session at Portimao in eighth but come qualifying was a shock victim of the first knockout segment.
He bounced back to ninth spot, having run a Medium/Hard strategy, but after three rounds has only 16 points compared to the 37 amassed by team-mate Lando Norris.
“If it was worse than my Saturday then I would not be wanting to talk to anybody,” Ricciardo said of his Portuguese Grand Prix. “So it was better. The race was fun actually.
“At the start I wanted to get five cars on lap one. I think I got three, so it was okay. It was just fun out there. Some good battles.
“But with the Hard tyres they just did not have as much pace as the Mediums, unfortunately I did not have the pace of Fernando [Alonso].
“I don’t think many people did actually. His hard stint was really impressive at the end of the race, how quick he was able to go, so it would’ve been nice to get a top eight but nonetheless some points.
“The objective was even one point, the team was saying try to just get even 10th and that point could do as well later in the season. But I’m not racing to get just one point so I managed to get two.”
Ricciardo conceded his start has been “a bit trickier than expected” but feels optimistic that matters will improve when the season continues in Spain this weekend.
“There certainly were moments in the race where I took some confidence,” he outlined.
“There were some flashes of good speed and good pace and management. But there are also mistakes, and let us say more notes to feedback.
“I feel like I made a step forward in understanding a bit more what I want in the car. I feel like a lot of the mistakes came through the same thing or the same limitation.
“I do not think that means waiting for an update, I believe there will be something on the car where we could just change the setup to help the areas where I’m struggling – maybe some things we can try and Barcelona. I am actually optimistic that just through set up can help my cause a little bit while we wait for some updates.”
Team boss Andreas Seidl reiterated his faith in Ricciardo and outlined that the current setbacks are part of the learning process.
“He’s the one who is probably disappointed the most because he knows he has it in him,” said Seidl.
“And he’s disappointed that he can’t extract the performance of our car yet. But at the same time, he’s very experienced. I think we are also very experienced on the team side it’s simply important to stay calm, work through this integration or adoption process together as a team.
“I think he feels very comfortable and happy in the team. I think he’s also very happy with how we together deal with this current challenge, together. And again, I’m 100 per cent sure it is just a matter of more time and then we will see Daniel back to the performance which we all know.”
Ricciardo also revealed the anguish he felt upon his elimination from Q1 on Saturday.
“You know it does not ruin your weekend but it certainly changes your weekend,” he said.
“When you do not get it right it really eats inside you. I have a lot of belief in myself and confidence. So when I do not perform to what I know I’m capable of it breaks me inside. I hate that.
“We don’t get these chances all the time, we have twenty-something races a year. So we are not able to do this every day, so even waiting a week to get another chance it hurts.
“But, I think I came out [in the race] and certainly cleared some of that frustration.”