Daniel Ricciardo - Is There Still Hope?
With signs of potential improvement in the past few rounds, the Australian Star still struggles with inconsistency.
Heading into the 11th round of the season at the infamous Hungaroring, it is a perfect chance to reflect on Daniel Ricciardo's progress at McLaren so far.
Before I begin, may I just mention that this article has been written by yours truly... An Australian, so I will try my best to eliminate any bias with cold-hard fact; something a large majority of the media seem to lack as of recent :)
Despite what many of the harsh critics have laid on Daniel, I think it is safe to say that the start of his debut season at McLaren was more than satisfactory. While he is underperforming in comparison to his thriving teammate, he brought in acceptable points for the team in the opening few rounds, even topping out Norris in round 4, finishing in 6th; 2 places and a lap ahead of the young British driver in Barcelona.
However, it is clear that there are many underlying problems that Daniel continues to face at the team, with inconsistency being his definitive kryptonite. Not only is the Australian 5 spots down from his teammate in the standings, the more concerning statistic is the fact he has less than half the points... Not Ideal...
Don't worry, I won't bash him too hard for this, because he has received more than enough criticism for it... But being lapped by your teammate in Monaco... Your teammate that has 8+ years less experience than yourself... yikes...
Furthermore, Daniel has lost-out to his teammate 9/1 throughout the course of this season. With some instances lying completely out of the points. So what is actually happening here? Is Daniel set to improve?
One argument that is raised to defend Ricciardo is the fact he is a new driver at the team. I partly agree with this. After all, he *has* moved teams twice in the past 5 years. Learning how to drive a new car is one thing; but what many do not consider is learning to cooperate with new people being a more significant challenge. But the major problem with this statement lies with his immense amount of experience in the sport. You would think at this stage in his career he has interacted with enough people in order to adapt to this kind of thing reasonably quickly; So I believe this is out of the equation.
Then what about the car? He is still learning it right?
Well yes, he is most likely still coming to terms with the new car; and many scenarios have proven this to be a major challenge for even the most experienced of drivers, but again, at this current stage I do not see this as an excuse anymore... unfortunately. The reason, yet again, is Daniel Ricciardo's long history in the sport. Starting in 2011 for the greatly successful team that was HRT (not), he then continued on to compete for some of the most prestigious teams in the sport. Red Bull and Renault.
While Daniel is yet to compete in a championship-challenging car, he has certainly had his fair share of best-of-the-rest teams. He just doesn't seem to settle down anywhere. This, in my likely-universal opinion, has to be a major factor behind Daniel's struggles in the sport so far. If you can't stay in 1 car, how can you expect to find any consistency when you drive a new one?
Enough criticism, let's talk positive! Where can we see the signs of improvement from our beloved, fun-loving Aussie?
Firstly, let's just remember that Daniel has a 3-year deal with the team; one of the longer-lasting contracts throughout the field. So there is plenty of time for him to build his confidence in the car, and more importantly his relationship with the team. And while Daniel, as well as McLaren themselves have admitted to being disappointed with his performance, there is a plethora of opportunity for him to gradually improve with the team.
Secondly, his race pace has proven impressive in multiple cases! Despite his frankly poor qualifying (and ignoring Monaco entirely), when Danny starts lower down the grid, he seems to obtain this 'make or break' mindset; and the majority of the time makes up an eye-catching amount of positions. Here are some examples.
France: Started P10 - Finished P6
Baku: Started P13 - Finished P9
**Austria: Started P13 - Finished P7!**
Daniel knows how to overtake, we all know this. His widely renowned title of "The King of Late Braking" says enough as-is. Even on the toughest of circuits, this guy knows how to get by; which leads me onto my third and final point.
(As of writing), This weekend we are heading into the beloved Hungaroring for round 11 of the 2021 season. In a not-so beloved way, however, this track is known for next-to-no overtaking opportunities... for everyone that isn't Danny Ric!
Let's step back a few years to 2018; where the overboiling rivalry between Max and Daniel at Red Bull was thriving. Under the immense pressure at (his otherwise unknown final season at the team), he still managed to climb from P12, all the way up to P4; scoring much needed points for the team after the Dutchman DNF'd early on in the race. Arguably one of the best races of the Australian's career so far!
Yes, he was in a Red Bull... but remember it was nowhere near the car we see today. In 2018, Red Bull finished 3rd in the constructors standings, over 150 points behind their nearest competitors, Ferrari; who were already miles behind the overwhelmingly dominant Mercedes. So Shh!!
There is plenty of opportunity left for this guy, so let's not rule him out just yet. Daniel can perform at these twisty/fast tracks, and while there isn't many of them left on the calendar this year, maybe this is the much needed boost in momentum Danny Ric needs. I'd definitely say so... what about you?