Ricciardo not being McLaren’s ‘lead driver’ is good for Norris, the team and himself

David Croft is looking forward to seeing if McLaren's seemingly risky pull-rod suspension will pay off.

Sky F1 commentator David Croft is curious to see whether McLaren have ultimately nailed the new regulations with their suspension design that which differs from others on the grid.

McLaren are thus far the only team of those to release their 2022 challengers to have opted for pull-rod suspension, where as everyone else has stuck with the push-rod design.

It was a brave design from the Woking team, but perhaps not as bold as Ferrari, whose adventurous package has been queried as to its effectiveness by Gary Anderson.

The Northern Irishman suggested that the Scuderia’s car could well be a sign that they have nailed the new technical regulations in Formula 1 while everyone else has failed to find the mark.

McLaren technical director James Key said upon the launch of the MCL36 that the team “either got it really right, or…” tailing off to symbolise the direct opposite.

He clarified that the suspension has been altered in order to accommodate the different aerodynamic behaviour of the car compared to last year.

“The whole suspension layout is about aerodynamics,” he said.

“At the front, it’s the only thing you’ve got to play with between the entrance of the floor and the front wing, and depending on how you treat the front wing and where the entry to the floor needs its load condition will kind of set out what you think the best front suspension geometry is.

“[I am] fairly confident it will work as expected.”

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Given the disparity regarding suspension to Aston Martin, Croft suggests that one or the other has made the right choice.

“Of the launches we’ve seen so far – McLaren haven’t gone the same way as Aston Martin with their suspension for instance,” he said in conversation with Fox Sports.

“So you think, one of them might’ve got it a bit wrong.

“One of them might’ve got it a bit right, or they might both be right, we just don’t know until they hit the track.”

Lando Norris out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo 15-7 in 2021, while out-performing him in race trim by the same score as the Briton ended the Drivers’ Championship two positions and 45 points ahead.

However, the 32-year-old picked up the team’s first race win since 2012 in the chaotic race in Monza, so Croft does not necessarily believe that there is a clear and obvious number one going into 2022.

“Is Daniel the lead driver? Maybe not, to be fair, and maybe that’s a position that’s good for both Lando and Daniel,” he explained.

“Because on any given Sunday McLaren has a driver line-up that are both capable of winning a race. And that’s what a team needs – strength and depth.

“It’s no good having a star striker if you don’t have a team to back him up.

“And I think McLaren have two drivers who can put on a lot of pressure, given the right car, on Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari who I think are going to be up there, and Alpine and Aston Martin if they come to the party.”

Despite a struggling, stuttering season that saw the Australian score points on 13 occasions, the 51-year-old maintains that Ricciardo’s race-winning prowess has not left him, as evidenced by his performance at the Italian Grand Prix.

“Daniel has lost nothing of his ability and his race-winning ability,” he added.

“In Lando he had a team-mate who on the day was happy to play the team game as well, and that shows a lot to the outside world about the partnership and the trust and willingness to work together that Daniel and Lando have.

“That should carry on for this year as well, both are very happy, they’re very settled at McLaren … they’re not looking for long-term new contracts, their future is quite settled.”

Norris has recently signed a new contract that takes him through to the end of 2025, while Ricciardo is locked in until the end of next season, leaving no doubt in the Briton’s mind as to their commitment to the cause.

“Lando has just signed a new deal, Daniel is really happy with McLaren and not looking to move elsewhere, so that creates harmony that can only be good for the team,” he stated.

McLaren missed out on third in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari last year, and CEO Zak Brown has recently warned against suppositions that they will be front-runners due to the new regulations, placing emphasis on simply improving on last year’s performance.