Hidden reason Daniel Ricciardo ‘struggled’ in McLaren debut

McLaren has revealed why Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo didn’t get his 2021 Formula 1 season off the flyer in Sakhir on Sunday evening.

After qualifying at sixth on the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Ricciardo was overtaken by new teammate Lando Norris on the opening lap before ultimately finishing seventh in the season opener.

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Norris finished three places ahead of the 31-year-old, narrowly missing out on his second F1 career podium.

Although coming seventh is by no means a failure, it was considered a relatively subdued start for Ricciardo at his new team.

But on Tuesday AEDT, McLaren revealed Ricciardo was combating car damage during Sunday’s race, which subsequently slowed him down.

The Perth driver sustained the damage during a minor collision with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly on lap four.

“Post-race we found damage to Daniel’s floor from the impact of Pierre running into the back of his car at the beginning of the race,” McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said.

“The level of damage cost a considerable amount of downforce. Despite the performance loss Daniel used his experience to cope with the issues and score important points for the team.”

McLaren say that the floor of Daniel Ricciardo's car suffered damage in the impact with Pierre Gasly's Alpha Tauri at the safety-car restart. This "cost a considerable amount of downforce," team principal Andreas Seidl said. "Daniel used his experience to cope with the issues."

Speaking to reporters after the season opener in Sakhir, Ricciardo admitted he still needed more time to settle in at McLaren.

“I would say if I (take) the weekend as a whole, I’m pretty happy. But if I just focus on the race itself, I struggled quite a bit in the race actually,” Ricciardo said, as reported by the F1 website.

“I couldn’t really extract the pace form the car and when I did, I could do it for one or two laps and then it would quickly drop off again with the tyres and the balance, so I just didn’t feel like I had a good race performance, or race package.

“Obviously it’s still new to me, so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of homework for me to do personally to obviously keep getting better.

“I made plenty of notes through the race of what I (was feeling in) the car and where that was holding me back, so I’ll give feedback, I’m sure they’ll give feedback to me and we’ll come to Imola in better shape.

“But I think if seventh is a poor race, we’re looking all right!”

Ricciardo signed with the British team following an underwhelming two-year stint at Renault, where he secured two podiums.

Daniel Ricciardo drives during the Bahrain Grand Prix.Source:AFP

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1.Source:Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was forced to hand back the lead in the final laps, before damning video emerged that showed the Mercedes champion benefited from some messy interpretations of the rules.

Russian debutant Nikita Mazepin crashed out in his opening lap in F1, prompting a reserve driver to mock the Haas rookie in a tweet that went viral.

Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finished in 13th and DNF respectively at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The next scheduled F1 race will take place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday, April 18th with lights out at 11pm AEDT.

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