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Can Ricciardo recover from his first mediocre season at McLaren?

Can Ricciardo recover from his first mediocre season at McLaren?

18 January - 16:51
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GPblog.com

Daniel Ricciardo's first season at McLaren was one with highs and lows. The Australian admitted to experiencing a difficult start, but all hopes are pinned on a strong return in 2022. Ricciardo has proven in previous years that he should not be ruled out after a mediocre season.

Getting used to the new car

With eight wins, 32 podiums and his clever overtaking, Ricciardo is one of the stronger drivers on the grid. However, the switch from Renault to McLaren last season did not go smoothly. It is no secret that Ricciardo had a difficult start and had to get used to the McLaren car. The driver revealed during the season that the car feels different compared to all the other Formula 1 cars he has driven before, and that was reflected in the results.

Ricciardo scored a handsome first place at the Monza Grand Prix, but that is also the only statistic in which he managed to beat teammate Lando Norris. The Briton eventually beat him on qualifying pace and in the race events.

Still, we should not give up hope in the Australian. His long stint with the Red Bull family was strong and so far Ricciardo is still the only driver who came close to Max Verstappen. He has proven himself three times now in a new team, and the statistics show that Ricciardo is a driver who takes time to get going, but then shows what he actually has.

Toro Rosso

Year Teammate Race duel Points
2012 Jean-Eric Vergne 8-7 10-16
2013 Jean-Eric Vergne 6-5 20-13

In his first season for the then Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri), Ricciardo immediately scored a number of point finishes. His total score eventually came to ten points in the championship. It's a handsome achievement, considering it was only Ricciardo's first full-time season in Formula One. He even beat teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in the racing duels, but in the end the Frenchman achieved a number of higher positions that ensured more points.

The following year, Ricciardo improved significantly as the season progressed and he doubled his points in the championship compared to the year before. The difference with his teammate was eventually seven points, but Vergne was once again defeated in the racing events. A switch to Red Bull was inevitable.

Red Bull Racing

Year Teammate Race duel Points
2014 Sebastian Vettel 11-3 238-167
2015 Daniil Kvyat 6-8 92-95

Ricciardo's first season at Red Bull was immediately one of his strongest at the team. The Australian driver defeated four-time world champion and teammate Sebastian Vettel and achieved his most wins in a single season, three. However, the switch from Toro Rosso to Red Bull was not very big, as Ricciardo switched from the sister team to the main team and was already familiar with the team as a Red Bull Junior. This is not really comparable to a completely new switch to, say, Renault, where the car, environment and working atmosphere are completely different.

In his second season for the team, things were considerably worse, but this was mainly due to the inferior car and the even more dominant Mercedes. The following year, in 2016, Ricciardo scored the most points ever in a season for Red Bull.

Renault

Year Teammate Race duel Points
2019 Nico Hulkenberg 10-5 54-37
2020 Esteban Ocon 9-3 119-62

In 2018, Ricciardo unexpectedly decided to leave Red Bull and make the switch to Renault. His first season with the new team was not the easiest. The Australian went from fighting for podiums and wins to fighting for points in the midfield. In the end, he scored 54 points in the drivers' championship, a big drop from his time at Red Bull. He did, however, manage to beat teammate Nico Hulkenberg.

Nevertheless, Ricciardo came back stronger again. In 2020, the driver managed to finish on the podium twice, nine years since Renault's last podium in 2011. Finally, Ricciardo again doubled his points in the championship, as we also saw at Toro Rosso. Thus, he managed to get the most out of the Renault.

McLaren

Ricciardo did not last long at Renault, because after two seasons with the team, the Australian decided to make the switch to McLaren. He achieved almost as many points in 2021 as his last year for Renault, but the McLaren was a bit stronger than his previous car. The big highlight was of course the Monza Grand Prix, where Ricciardo took his first win since 2018, but throughout the rest of the season Lando Norris left his good-humored teammate far behind.

Looking at the statistics, we can expect Ricciardo to perform better in his second season with McLaren. It seems that the Australian needs a year to get used to a new car and a different environment. Whether he will double his points in the championship in 2022, as he did in his second season with Toro Rosso and Renault, remains to be seen, but it is clear that his first season with a new team is not entirely representative of what he can actually do in that car. A year of experience at McLaren will certainly help him understand the car better in his second season.

It is hoped for Ricciardo that he can improve significantly in 2022. However, we also have to take into account the regulations of 2022. The cars will undergo substantial changes, but hopefully, like other years, Ricciardo can get used to his new car faster and remind everyone that he is still a strong driver.

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