McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has conceded that he is at a loss to explain why his pace went missing at the Spanish Grand Prix, and he described his race as “sad.”
Ricciardo out-qualified team-mate Lando Norris for the first time this season when he got into the top 10 while Norris was bumped out having seen his last Q2 lap invalidated because of a track limits infringement.
However, the Australian fell back during the race, and he was quickly dispatched by Norris, who was also suffering from tonsillitis all through Sunday.
Ricciardo would come across the line to finish down in 13th, while Norris achieved an impressive eighth under the circumstances, and the 32-year-old reveals he had a lack of grip, but cannot explain why.
“Yeah, I wasn’t there from the start. And it wasn’t like I had understeer – I mean, I did – but it was just overall lack of grip,” he theorised.
“I thought at the start of the race, it was very, very slow. I thought ‘okay, maybe, I don’t know, temperatures just got too high or something with the tyres.’
“You know, [at] the start you’re obviously fighting cars and maybe things like that can happen. We did a three-stop race, so I have four sets of tyres today and was very, very slow on all of them so not sure. [It was a] really, really sad race.”
McLaren were one of many teams to bring upgrades to their car, with evolution of the 2022 machines speeding up owing to the new technical regulations, and the Australian can only hope that something fundamentally wrong with the changes can provide an answer as to why he was unable to score points on Sunday.
“Everyone obviously came in the weekend curious, you know, for how they’re going to perform,” said Ricciardo.
“And yeah, it’s one of those races that it was so slow that you kind of nearly, it sounds bad to say, but like, I mean, you hope that something was wrong.
“Like you hope that we find something that is like, ‘oh, that’s why’ – because [it’s] probably more concerning if we don’t because, as I said, it wasn’t like a tenth or two tenths off, it felt like over a second at times.
“I don’t know that for a fact, but I certainly saw the cars pass me and pull away very quickly.”
McLaren CEO Zak Brown suggests that his driver is not “comfortable” with the MCL36 at present, but he concedes that Ricciardo is currently not doing a sufficient job for the team compared to Norris, who “has an edge.”
“Short of kind of Monza and a few races, it’s generally not kind of met his or our expectations,” said Brown.
“I think all you can do is keep working hard as a team, keep communications going, keep pushing and hope whatever’s not kind of clicking at the moment clicks here shortly.”
However, the fact that the young Briton is out-performing an eight-time race winner so frequently, in Brown’s eyes, epitomises how talented Norris is.
“I think it also points to how good Lando is when you look at the gap between Charles and Carlos, the gap between Max and Sergio,” added the American.
“There are gaps between team-mates and I think Lando is one of the best drivers in the world at the moment, and I think it also is kind of a compliment to how good Lando is when you see the gap that exists.”
Ricciardo is 11th in the Drivers’ Championship on 11 points having only scored in Australia and the Imola sprint, and he is now 28 points adrift of seventh-placed Norris.