McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo has commented on the late Safety Car controversy in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
The Australian lost out due to race director Michael Masi only allowing the five cars between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to un-lap themselves, but he was quick to admit that Hamilton unquestionably feels much more aggrieved than him.
Ricciardo struggled in his debut season with McLaren after joining them from Renault, though he managed to take the team’s first victory since 2012 last season in Monza.
He said he was much happier with his performance in the second half of 2021, but admitted that he “clearly” needs to take another step forward in 2022.
“Started not great, got better, but still with some dips,” Ricciardo told Motorsport.com when asked to rate his performance in his maiden season with McLaren.
“Definitely happier with the second half. But there’s still some things to work on, so I’m not like overwhelmed with it.
“Let’s say I made a step, but clearly I still need to make another one next year to get where I want to be, and probably more on Saturdays just to give me that track position for Sunday and keep me out of a little bit more of a mess. So that’s a that’s what I’ll work on.”
Evaluating the close to his 2021 campaign, Ricciardo said he was happy with his strong points haul in the penultimate grand prix of the season (in Saudi Arabia) after benefitting from a Safety Car.
And, although the controversial Safety Car restart in Abu Dhabi cost him, Ricciardo said “I’m not going to give you my sad story” as other drivers, particularly Hamilton, were hit much harder by the unusual restart procedure.
“I think obviously last week [in Jeddah] was good and look, with the way the Safety Car and that worked out it, it probably helped me more than it helped others.
“And today [in Abu Dhabi] it’s swung in the other way. So that’s how it works, these things go back and forth.
“I think I got up to ninth, then I think I was sitting there and I feel like I had a bit more pace than [Esteban] Ocon. But it was still tricky to overtake, and ultimately probably I didn’t have enough pace to get by, and so that was that.
“And then I think the VSC, Gasly and Fernando [Alonso] were able to jump us so that put us out, and then we’re just kind of out of position then so a bit tricky.
“I think we had a bit more pace in clear air, but to be honest that’s on me, that’s what happens when you qualify 10th and you’re in I guess that park.
“So definitely something I want to improve next year is those Saturdays, and make Sundays a little easier for myself.
“Obviously the magnitude of my 12th is not so big, the magnitude of the world title and how the Safety Car did that is completely much bigger, so I’m not going to give you my sad story!” the Australian concluded.
Ricciardo finished eighth in the 2021 Drivers’ Standings on 115 points, while team-mate Lando Norris finished sixth on 160 points.
McLaren, meanwhile, finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, losing out to Ferrari for P3 after their season-long battle with the Scuderia.