Why Ricciardo has found corner entry so hard with McLaren

The struggles of top Formula 1 drivers to adjust to new cars has been an ongoing story thus far in 2021, revealing just how hard it is to take the current machinery to the limit.

Why Ricciardo has found corner entry so hard with McLaren

Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo have all been working their way through the process of adapting, and all have had hurdles to overcome.

In the case of Ricciardo, getting on top of corner entry and braking has been one of the main issues he's faced as he's tried to match the superb form of teammate Lando Norris.

Braking has traditionally been one of the Australian driver's strengths, and over the years he's been noted for his bold passing moves. However, on his transition from Renault to McLaren this year he's found it hard to become fully confident when exploring the limits.

He's likened the process of adapting his driving to being "back at school," such is the level of thought required.

"It's like being a beginner all over again, like tutor yourself through every corner," he said after qualifying in Barcelona.

"Good job, do that better, OK, improve a bit more here. Obviously the feedback I'm getting from the team is good, and they're obviously trying to get me into some good habits with this car and the kind of characteristics.

"So it's things like that, whether it's braking or the way you get on throttle. Some are unique, and I guess I'm still having to be a little bit conscious about that, and teach myself enough that it does become natural.

"So it still does require a bit of thought. I think the quicker corners are a bit easier, you kind of just chuck it in and hold on. But the longer corners, you're kind of in the corner for a long time, and having to be quite delicate and precise.

"The car is sensitive, and it's working well in some ways but not well the others, and I think I'm trying to certainly programme myself to basically learn how to drive it faster. So I'm back at school."

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, leaves the garage

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M, leaves the garage

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It might seem strange that an experienced multiple race winner like Ricciardo, who has switched teams more than once, should find himself in such a situation with something as fundamental to his craft as braking. However, it's a much more complicated and involved process than just standing on the pedal.

"Braking is quite a big hitter in laptime, and Dan's always been a very, very strong braker," McLaren technical director James Key explains. "We've seen some of his overtakes in the past, and he's done it by being very late on the anchors, and getting the pass.

"So it's definitely a strength of his. I think changing to a different car, you've always got to adapt a bit to the way that car feels under braking. So I think there's lots of different aspects. The braking system itself often isn't the major factor here. We all use very similar material, very similar systems, and so on.

"So in terms of the pedal feel, to a certain extent, there's a bit of variability there. But certainly the bite and the braking performance itself is often very similar. I think where differences come in are things like engine braking, and how that works, and how to tune it accordingly.

"How the chassis works, how the aerodynamics work and support the car in certain conditions, is it strong in a straight line, which is what we've always been, or a little bit weaker if you're trying to carry the brakes into a corner, or certain types of corner where you have different kind of braking conditions. That's where you really get the differences creeping up."

Read Also:

Key suggests that Pirelli's 2021 tyre construction, which features revised fronts, has also played a role in making life difficult for drivers.

"I think what's exacerbated that this year is the new tyres we have are slightly weaker in certain conditions compared to before as well," says Key.

"So if you took the tyres from last year, they behave in a certain way, and probably to be honest, feel a bit more familiar to Daniel and Lando and everyone else. But this year these tyres are slightly weaker in certain areas, and slightly stronger in others.

"One of the changes that we've noticed is under braking. So it is just a process of adapting your feeling and what you want to do to what the car is actually doing. And of course from our side trying to adapt the car and facilitate what Daniel is trying to do. And we're getting there, slowly."

Ricciardo's engineering team have various tools to play with as they try to make him more at one with the car.

"There's certain things we can't change," says Key. "Tyres and other things will be the same, but in terms of the way the car behaves, the mapping of the engine, the feeling of the pedal are all things that are under our control, and we are chipping away at all those things to try to find a solution which works."

Ricciardo is certainly making steps with the McLaren, and seventh on the Barcelona grid – a little over a tenth off fourth place and having lost his final Q3 lap due to hitting the chequered flag – still represented a decent effort.

"Today we hit the ground running," he said. "FP3 was much better and qualy was just like steady progress, going a bit quicker each run. So I was certainly feeling comfortable.

"There's 15 corners on this track. Ten of them I would say I was feeling good in, but there's still a handful which I know I can execute better.

"I'm not saying I could have done that better today, but I know over time, I'll start to just find those extra little half-tenths here and there to get a bit more out of the car."

shares
comments

Related video

Sainz: Ferrari still worried about tyre degradation in Spain
Previous article

Sainz: Ferrari still worried about tyre degradation in Spain

Next article

Steiner: “Not fair” to keep F1 staff on the road for six weeks

Steiner: “Not fair” to keep F1 staff on the road for six weeks
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021