Daniel Ricciardo admits he has been on something of a "downward sprial" since the United States Grand Prix, having failed to score points at all three events of the recent triple-header.
After finishing fifth in Austin, the Australian ended up outside of the points in Mexico, and recorded a DNF in Brazil. This was followed by another challenging weekend in Qatar, which began with dropping out of Q2 after qualifying in 14th.
Ricciardo had a tough start to the race, having fallen back to 16th before later working his way back up to his original qualifying position. However, he was then instructed to save fuel for much of the Grand Prix, something that he later put down to a "system error".
This difficult run has not been easy for Ricciardo, but he is trying not to become "too negative" about it.
"I'll look at some of the laps where I didn't have to save [fuel] and see how the pace was," Ricciardo told media including RacingNews365.com after the race in Qatar.
"But unfortunately, since Austin it's been a bit of a downward spiral, but I don't want to be too negative with that. I think it's just been a run like that."
Taking the positives
Reflecting on his performance at the Losail International Circuit, Ricciardo feels that it was not all bad, especially in comparison to his struggles earlier in the season.
"This weekend, I don't think I sucked," the McLaren driver explained. "I just missed half a tenth in some of these key corners and, of course, it adds up.
"So three and a half tenths in qualifying is not what I want. But I think gone are the days where I'm seven [or] eight tenths off, so I want to say I've moved on from there, but there's clearly still some work to do on some circuit-specific ones."
Comparison to Norris
Ricciardo has faced some challenges in adapting to the McLaren car since joining the team this season, and throughout the earlier stages of the year was regularly outperformed by teammate Lando Norris.
Despite this, Ricciardo feels that he has improved in getting used to the MCL35M, and also acknowledges that Norris has the advantage of having been with the Woking-based squad for much longer.
"I can see the difference in the driving, and why I'm running into some of these problems," Ricciardo said. "But I guess if it was easy, then I would have perfected it already.
"I think Lando is driving very well, and I think [in response to] any questions about him, he's proved to everyone this year that he's top level. But I think also, probably just having the three years with the same car, has helped him kind of dial in that.
"So I definitely think I've improved my core style from the beginning of the year, but there's clearly still another step to go in some of these sorts of tracks that he's still on top of more than I am."
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