Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh in his McLaren debut. At the Grand Prix of Bahrain, experiencing a moment of shock after just a few laps from the start, AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly touched his ass after restarting in the starting stage.
“I hope I’ve had damage that might explain the pace a little,” Ricardo said after the race. When he came back on the fourth lap, he began the overtaking maneuver against the French in turn 4.
Toward the fifth turn, he skipped the AlphaTauri, but the latter miscalculated when braking and collided with its front spoiler in the left rear tire of a McLaren. “You did it honestly [nichts gespürt]. I just heard that his car was damaged. “
Medium and hard level: “I got slower and slower”
Only after the race, Ricardo saw what really happened. “Then he told me he hit my rear end. I had no idea, but if my lower body is damaged, I will sleep better tonight.”
Because: Ricardo just got slower and slower on the race track. In the first stage, he was able to keep up with teammate Land Norris and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc – he had identified Munigas as his main competitor on the Saturday after qualifying.
But after his first stop on lap 13, he was washed and lost a lot of time behind Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin. When he was only able to cross the German six laps at a later time, a nearly five-second gap on the Leclerc had already opened.
“In all honesty, I felt that the longer the race, the slower I got. In my first time on the soft podium, I was fairly able to keep up with Lando and Charles, but on average, they drove a little further,” describes the Australian.
On lap 32 he also had to admit defeat to Sergio Perez at Red Bull. After his second pause on lap 32, a similar picture emerged: the gap between him and Leclerc continued to grow for more than seven seconds, and shortly thereafter he snatched the Mexican McLaren for a second time.
On the solid tires it felt more [als würde ich langsamer werden]. It was as if I was slower and slower during the race. “That may be a result of the fact that he was unable to maintain a high pace on the MCL35M in the long term.
P7 is a “good sign” in a bad race
Andreas Seidel also noted: “He had a great qualifier yesterday and it was a good start to the race today, but then in the second and third stages he had problems with consistency,” says the McLaren team captain. Ricardo also had difficulties managing tires.
However, the résumé of the transition is mainly positive: “It was a strong weekend”. As he admits, “I was expecting the race to be the easiest part of the weekend.” He maintains that this has nothing to do with overconfidence.
“I just thought I could make the most progress in the race. But the opposite was probably true. I knocked out more qualifiers than race. I had problems maintaining speed,” he admits.
This also relates to the fact that Ricciardo has not yet found the optimal configuration for McLaren. “I don’t have a site that I like yet. It still takes some time. But if a bad weekend means seventh to me, then things are not going well.”
Compared to his first race at Renault in Australia in 2019 – the accident right after the start, then retirement on lap 28 – he was satisfied with his debut with the traditional British team. “I feel better here than I did two years ago.”
He is now a “step further” than after his first race in the French team, “but I’m still not where I want to be.” His former team finished 13th on Sunday with Esteban Ocon, and Fernando Alonso had to give up prematurely after his return.
“I certainly don’t wish them badly. But yes, I think we got off to a good start as a team,” he said, and he did not regret his move to McLaren. “I feel good. Like I said, if I am in seventh today and have a feeling that I didn’t lead a good race, then I think that’s a good sign for the future.”