Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo’s spectacular win at the Monza Grand Prix last weekend has put an end to an uneventful few years and silenced critics who have wondered if he still had the mentality to top the podium. Ricciardo has admitted that his move from Renault to McLaren for the 2021 Formula One World Championship was a struggle. He likened joining McLaren to being “back at school” as he battled with the quirks of a new car and a dip in confidence. However, this latest result marks a turning point in his form.
Ricciardo’s decision to leave Renault followed an uneventful 2019 season studded with disqualifications and disappointments. Although, his 2020 stint showed more promise, with two podiums. However, the prospect of sitting behind the wheel of the newly Mercedes-fuelled McLaren proved too enticing to turn down.
However, the Australian has taken half a season to settle into the new car. Exacerbated by teammate Lando Norris’ consistently solid drives and pace, and no doubt heightened further by the desperation to come out above Ferrari in the championship. The frustration of the situation had begun to ripple through the team. Norris’ self-professed “best season of his career” has only served to highlight Ricciardo’s toughest.
At the time, McLaren team principal, Andreas Seidl, conceded that the difference in driving styles between the two teammates was the main reason for the disparity, with the notoriously difficult car being troublesome to exploit.
There were been clear issues with corner entry and braking in the McLaren. Though his signature late braking to overtake move has typically been a strength for Ricciardo, the struggles to get to grips with the MCL35M had clearly knocked his confidence.
Some believed that Ricciardo’s decade of experience in F1 should have equated to a faster adaptability rate. Ricciardo having admitted that had these difficulties arisen when he had been younger, it probably would have led to him throwing “a few tantrums and losing it mentally”, but, it was vital to draw on his resilience. Known for his cheerfulness to the extent where he was appointed as Chief Optimism Officer at Optus, the most impressive test at this time was his enduring ability to stay committed in an environment of frustration and uncertainty.
This positive mentality was glimpsed during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, marking his milestone of 200 GP starts with P4. However, the chance to transfer this top qualifying performance to a coveted place on the podium was denied when the race was abandoned after two laps due to terrible weather. Yet, this season best qualifying result signalled a turn of luck.
A mediocre execution in Q1 and Q2, exacerbated by the difficulty in adapting the tyres to the weather conditions, only served to illuminate his stunning performance in Q3, leaving experts excited about this potential change in trajectory for Ricciardo’s luck, brought about by his mental fortitude and perseverance. He was rewarded at Monza with the podium place he so badly wanted: a turnaround that could mark the start of a new and exciting chapter for the dedicated and committed driver.
Image: timfilbert via Flickr