Daniel Ricciardo was left ruing “what could have been” after a crucial mistake from McLaren at the Spanish Grand Prix but F1 pundits believe it could actually work in his favour.
Ricciardo beat teammate Lando Norris for the first time in a Grand Prix, having out-qualified the Brit prior in three of four races.
The Aussie declared it a step in the right direction, although it could have been even better had it not been for an error that was not Ricciardo’s own doing.
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Ricciardo was one of the final drivers to leave the pits for his final run and was stuck behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, unable to complete his flying lap before the chequered flag came out.
It saw Ricciardo qualify seventh but speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, F1 commentator Tom Clarkson described it as a “line in the sand” moment for the 31-year old.
“Nice for him in a way that McLaren made a bit of a mess in qualifying. They’ve completely held their hand up,” Clarkson said.
“He didn’t get his final run in Q3 because they timed it wrong and he just didn’t cross the line in time.
“Yes, he’s come in for a bit of criticism recently — ‘Why are you taking so long to get up to speed (at a new team)’ — but actually when the team drops the ball as well, he’s probably thinking, ‘Alright, we’ve all had our moments, let’s move on together’.
“This might be the line in the sand for him where he really comes good.”
Ricciardo has previously admitted that he still has more to adapt to since making the switch to McLaren, adding he is not naive as to expect instant results.
Natalie Pinkham though added on the podcast that Ricciardo’s output so far has been more impressive than many have given him credit for.
“When you look at the stats he’s still 3-1 out-qualified Lando, his first four races at a team,” she said.
“That’s really impressive when you consider how much you do need to adapt when you join a new team.”
Speaking of the recent mistake at the Spanish Grand Prix, the key will be how Ricciardo responds and works with McLaren to ensure the hiccup does not happen again.
In a column for Formula1.com, Ross Brawn wrote that one of the biggest challenges facing Ricciardo will be how he actually articulates any issues he has with the team.
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“The challenge a driver faces when changing teams should not be underestimated. I think some drivers are better at coping at that than others,” he wrote.
“Historically, some drivers have walked into teams and they know exactly what they want and how to articulate that.
“It depends completely on the personality of that driver. There are so many nuances in the relationship between an engineer and a driver. It may take some time for an engineer to understand the magnitude of a complaint or request. Getting that relationship right is vital – and it’s only natural that it can take some time.”
Ricciardo did though laud his team for “two good stops” after the race, declaring it was “definitely a step in the right direction” after a horror Q1 at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
“It was personally a better weekend, for sure,” Ricciardo said.
“It is definitely a step in the right direction, it is progress. I’m still learning, it sounds crazy to say that but still learning how to be better with this car.
“The race was good. We do the race five more times a day and I think six is the best we can finish. Every car ahead was faster, and even Carlos behind was faster. So getting him at the start was critical and that allowed me to finish sixth. The team executed a good two stops. We changed the plan later in the race and it was the right call.”