‘Ignorance is bliss’: Daniel Ricciardo on why Lando Norris has beaten him

Daniel Ricciardo is set for a year on the sidelines in 2023, with the Aussie having failed to land another seat on the Formula 1 grid.

Daniel Ricciardo’s miserable two-year spell at McLaren is nearing its end, with the Aussie having just four races left as a driver for the Woking-based team.

There was so much anticipation in 2021 that the much-loved Australian would become a consistent top six driver once again; however, it’s his team-mate Lando Norris who’s claimed that honour.

McLaren and Ricciardo simply haven’t clicked, something that arguably hasn’t happened since the 33-year-old was at Red Bull.

Since leaving the Austrians at the end of 2018, Ricciardo’s time in F1 has been one of disappointment and what-ifs?

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The biggest what-if, is what would’ve happened if he decided to stay at the frontrunning side, rather than move to Renault in 2019.

Whilst the past can’t be changed, the future can, with 2023 set to be a very different season for the outgoing McLaren driver who is looking likely to be Mercedes’ reserve driver next year.

Despite being contracted until the end of next season, Ricciardo and McLaren decided to part ways at the end of 2022 rather than the end of 2023.

Five points finishes from 18 races so far in 2022 just isn’t what McLaren are looking for, especially with their rivals Alpine constantly having both drivers in the points.

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It’s meant that Norris has somewhat been the sole driver in the team’s bid for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, a target that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Despite a poor period at McLaren and Renault, Ricciardo isn’t a bad driver; in fact, when given a “car to win” he’ll “f***ing win”.

This was proven at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, where Ricciardo had a car at his disposal that he felt good in, and as convincingly proven at Monza, a comfortable Ricciardo is a fast Ricciardo.

More often than not, though, Ricciardo and the car just haven’t clicked, with the Aussie aware that both the 2021 and 2022 cars have “exposed” his “weaknesses”.

“I’m certainly aware that I’m not perfect,” Ricciardo told The Race.

“I have weaknesses. And unfortunately, this car’s exposed that ultimately.

“So, there is that where it’s humbling. I can still work on things and better myself.

“But then the confident part of me is like… but you give me a car to win and I’ll f***ing win!”

His time at McLaren has been truly confusing, with the pair having seemingly made improvements at some races but then appearing to go back to square one at others.

Ricciardo managed consecutive points finishes at France and then Austria, resulting in things beginning to look up for the driver; however, he then went on to finish in the bottom quarter of the field at the following four races.

The former Red Bull driver explained that there just seemed to be an “unforeseen hurdle” at “pretty much every weekend”, making for a number of troublesome weekends.

“Never-ending steps”, Ricciardo said in response to taking one step forward but two steps back.

“We would learn something on a weekend and we’ll take a step forward,” he says.

“But then there was another step that we had to make, or there was a new discovery. So it’s like we would progress from the previous weekend, but ‘oh, now there’s another hurdle’. So next weekend, we’ll get over that hurdle. And pretty much every weekend, it was like an unforeseen hurdle.

“I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got the car set up well, this driving style is starting to suit this car’. But then, again, it just felt like we were on the old hamster wheel.”

An issue for Ricciardo and for McLaren is that whilst the Aussie has faced countless issues, Norris has been flying high.

This year’s car isn’t as good as previous years for the papaya side, yet Norris has continued to produce incredible results.

The Brit is yet again looking set to finish ‘best of the rest’ in the Drivers’ Championship, whilst Ricciardo languishes outside the top 10.

One thing the Aussie has always been throughout his F1 career is honest and that clearly hasn’t changed, as Ricciardo revealed exactly why he’s been consistently beaten the last two years by his 22-year-old team-mate.

“If I’m going to give you a short answer, I’ll put it down to two things,” Ricciardo added.

“One, I’ll never take credit away from him – the kid’s good. There’s no denying that. And if I say he’s not, then I’m just being a bitter, sore loser.

“The kid’s good. That’s obviously one element, he can steer.

“The second is, ignorance is bliss. And I’m not saying he’s got no knowledge of racecars, not at all. I think he’s quite actually in tune with what he does, from a technical point of view.

“But it’s the only F1 car he’s driven. Obviously, there’s been variations of the McLaren. But he hasn’t driven for another team. So in a way he has got, I’m sure, used to some of the elements of this car.

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“There’s probably a bit of that, where I’ve obviously got some – I hate this word, but I’ve just got to use it for a lack of better words right now – expectation of maybe what a Formula 1 car can do or should do or where some potential lies.

“He does now, because he watches onboards, and he sees what other drivers can do – ‘Yeah, I wish we could do that, the rear doesn’t do what I want’.

“But ultimately, he hasn’t been behind the wheel of another car. So obviously, he’s good. And there’s an element of ‘ignorance is bliss’.”