McLaren’s inquest into how they let victory at the Russian Grand Prix slide away in the Sochi rain may still be in full gear, but there’s no debate in the team at the moment about the excellence of the resurgent Daniel Ricciardo.
While all the focus in Sunday’s race was centred on the fateful call – or lack of one – that saw McLaren’s race leader Lando Norris stay out on slick tyres as the rain began to pour and eventually tiptoe to seventh, Ricciardo drove another mature race following his Italian GP win at Monza to end up fourth in the deluge.
Amid the drama surrounding Norris – and teammate Ricciardo was one of those who felt enormous sympathy for the young Briton, who’d opted to stay out on the track only for the weather to cruelly deny him – team bosses recognised the Australian himself had been a model of class.
“I think what was very good to see was Daniel’s performance again, finishing in the end in P4,” McLaren’s team principal Andreas Seidl enthused on Sky Sports.
“It still gave us a lot of good points. I think we could still score more than Ferrari, which is the main battle we are in at the moment (for third place) in the constructors’ championship.”
It might have even been another podium day for Ricciardo if not for one painfully slow pit stop in which McLaren mechanics struggled to change his front left tyre and he came out 14th after entering in second place.
He didn’t put a foot wrong himself, getting a good start, holding up eventual winner Lewis Hamilton’s pursuit and immediately recognising the need to change tyres quickly when the rains came near the end of the race.
Yet Ricciardo still feels there’s improvement to come when the F1 circus descends on Istanbul next week.
“Lando’s race was a bit of a disaster at the end. It could have been a first or a second by the sound of it,” Ricciardo said.
“From a team point of view, I think there’s encouragement with our performance, but we’ll keep looking at it.
“Personally, some moments were good, some not so.
“I’m still eager to find some speed in the car. I am not sure it was as comfortable a weekend as Monza. Things were a bit tricky and a bit compromised on Friday (practice day) and I don’t think we ever got back on top of it, so we will keep working on it.”
With seven rounds still left and at last beginning to get a tune out of the McLaren, Ricciardo now sits in eighth place in the championship race on 95 points, but must feel he has a chance of overhauling the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc (104) and Carlos Sainz (112.5).
He’ll also want to narrow the gap on fourth-placed Norris (139), after being outperformed by the Briton for nearly all of the season.