Three years ago Daniel Ricciardo plunged into Red Bull’s swimming pool following a weekend-long display of dominance that culminated in Monaco Grand Prix victory.
In 2021, having made his second team transfer in three seasons, the Australian endured a lacklustre time.
At the conclusion of the all-important Saturday qualifying session Ricciardo was in 12th place, while team-mate Lando Norris classified fifth, the pair separated by half a second in Q2, and almost one second once Norris’ Q3 effort was considered.
It marked the second time in the last three races that he has not progressed into Q3, with an early exit naturally denting prospects for the race.
“I got asked before, ‘has it been frustrating?’ I think it’s a bit more just confusing,” Ricciardo said. “I’ve been a long way off the pace all weekend. We made a bit of progress in quali, but it’s easy to make progress when you’re a second or so off, it still wasn’t rewarding.
“We had a debrief, there are a few things that add up or make sense. I would say there’s still a little bit to understand. I don’t think the car felt particularly bad or off. Just when you see your dash and the lap time it’s like ‘Oh. Still a long way off’. I understood a few things, but still a bit of digging to do I would say.”
Despite the difficulties Ricciardo has faced in the opening phase of the 2021 season his 12th place race-day result at Monaco marked the first time this season that he has failed to score points.
But of a more ignominious note was the fact that he was lapped by team-mate Norris prior to the chequered flag, a humiliating experience for any driver to endure. Ricciardo remains on 16 points this year while two-time podium finisher Norris, albeit in the form of his career, is up on 56, behind only Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
“There are some differences [between his and Norris’ data], some of it’s visible, I see it and I’m like ‘ok, that would help, doing that in that corner’,” Ricciardo said. “There are some things which are visible on that data and I see that’s where I’m losing time.
“The difficulty is executing that and perfecting that is the difficulty. That’s something that I think I’ve got to start working on. Probably around this track, it’s emphasised that it’s not that natural for me. So that’s what I’m trying to re-calibrate in my brain and in my style.”
Ricciardo’s run in the turbo-hybrid era saw him projected as one of the top drivers on the grid, which meant the transfer to McLaren was an obvious choice for the team – it was keen to stick his experience, speed and race-winning abilities alongside its young star in Norris. Both drivers are now tied down through 2023 following last week’s confirmation of Norris’ new multi-year deal.
Unlocking Ricciardo’s potential is a current focus for the Woking-based squad, which is refusing to jump to any conclusions following his lacklustre start to life at the team.
“From my point of view, we have a clear idea of what the issue is,” said McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl. “Our car simply needs a certain way to drive it in order to extract the maximum performance.
“Lando is obviously used to it and manages it, but it just doesn’t feel natural for Daniel with everything he’s driven in the past. How we approach this situation from the team, it’s important to stay calm, even after a disappointing result.
“Then have two actions in place which is trying together with Daniel to re-calibrate him to a certain degree in order to adjust his driving style to our car. But of course we look also on the team side to see if we can adjust the car in order to make it more natural for him so he can drive fast and has to think less, without obviously compromising the overall car performance.”
With an uneventful race following a taxing qualifying session, Ricciardo says that he will work to understand what is going wrong, but asserted his desire to cast the uninspiring weekend out of his mind.
“I don’t want to take anything away from this weekend,” he said. “I want to leave every single thing that happened here, here. I want to bury it in the ocean and never see it again. It is the best thing because weekends like this, I have had a few of them but not many.
“Sometimes the problem with these ones, you always want to learn from your mistakes, but you can also overanalyse. If we analyse everything that happened here maybe we will confuse ourselves even more. I’m a bit mixed at the moment about what to do, but initially I want to not think about Formula 1 for at least 48 hours. And just do something else.”