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Daniel Ricciardo

Why Ricciardo's form is a massive worry

The McLaren driver has been outshone by teammate Lando Norris in the opening five races of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship. RacingNews365.com explains why Ricciardo's lack of pace could become a major concern.

Ricciardo Monaco
To news overview © McLaren

Daniel Ricciardo was expected to lead McLaren back to the front when he announced his three-year contract last year. There was huge expectation and all of the pressure was put onto his teammate Lando Norris in the build-up to the 2021 season.

Norris has stepped up and is driving at his best with clear confidence in the car with his smooth driving style which appears to be extracting the most from the MCL35M.

Ricciardo is eighth in the Drivers' Championship and is already 32 points behind the Lando Norris after just five events and has been underwhelming.

On a track which Ricciardo adores, the Australian had a torrid Monaco GP and was lapped by teammate Norris on his way to 12th place.

			© McLaren
	© McLaren

"I'm probably more confused than frustrated," Ricciardo told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press. "Obviously frustrated and upset, we know qualifying here is so big, but it's probably got to a point where it's not even the position now, it's just we've been pretty much a second off all weekend.

"I'd like to say I'm just not confident or still need to learn the car but not a second, not around here. I'm certainly not being like, 'Yeah, something is broken', but I think we do have to have a look into maybe a bigger picture, because I refuse to believe I'm that slow around here.

"Even crossing the line, a lot of laps I felt good. I was like 'that's a good lap' and I think at one point I was 1.2s slower than say what Lando had just done, so no answers at the moment."

This is the major concern. Ricciardo feels he's doing a good job but the stopwatch does not agree. If he felt like he made some mistakes or the car had too much understeer or oversteer, then he can try to understand and learn how to iron out those problems.

But this does not seem to be the case. Ricciardo does not know where he is going wrong and that's when you can start to get into a cycle which no racing driver wants to experience.

Rather than using your driver instincts, which Ricciardo definitely has, you start to overthink and to get out of that mindset can be difficult.

			© McLaren
	© McLaren

Monaco is the biggest confidence track of the year. The drivers want to be close to the barriers and carry in bundles of speed into every corner as they drive on the absolute limit of the car's capabilities.

Confidence does not seem to be the problem for Ricciardo. Looking at his Monaco qualifying against Norris, he is simply a tiny bit slower than the Brit at every turn.

His apex speeds and minimum corner speeds are slightly down on Norris and he's later on the power which means he is losing time all the way down the next straight.

This all adds up. For example if you are losing half a tenth on a 16 corner circuit, that's a loss of 0.8 seconds per lap. There's not one key area where Ricciardo is losing time, it's simply everywhere and that's difficult to turn around.

			© McLaren
	© McLaren

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes that Ricciardo's struggles are down to his driving style.

"In order to drive our car fast at the moment, you need a special driving style, which is not natural for Daniel," Seidl told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press. "That's why it's not easy for him to get the laps in and to extract the performance.

"We have to stay calm, keep analysing, keep learning so he can further adapt to our car because obviously the potential is there."

Ricciardo was very strong in Spain so their is potential. His McLaren debut in Bahrain was good too although Norris was still the better driver, but that was to be expected.

It's the difference between Ricciardo and Norris that's the big surprise. A consistent deficit of over four tenths of a second is hard to overcome.

Sebastian Vettel was never able to react to Charles Leclerc last year and he's a four-time world champion. Vettel's downfall just shows that any racing driver can go through a bad patch that lasts for up to a season.

If Ricciardo wants to avoid that trend, things must change quickly because it's tough to retain high confidence levels and momentum is vital in any sport.

The question has moved from when will Ricciardo start to match Norris to, can Ricciardo get on terms with Norris?

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