F1 2021: Daniel Ricciardo, ‘bad news’, McLaren, Lando Norris, best of the rest, constructor’s championship
It was the result Australia and McLaren fans had been waiting for but Daniel Ricciardo’s Monza win is putting the fear into the F1 grid.
Daniel Ricciardo’s win at the Italian Grand Prix shocked the world as the Aussie star became an eight-time Grand Prix winner.
While the 32-year-old is proven performer in the F1 particularly in his first stint with Red Bull, he had been in the wilderness with two podiums in two years at Renault and his well publicised struggles after his switch to McLaren.
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But all that was put in the rear-view mirror as he beat former teammate Max Verstappen to the first corner and was never really challenged as crossed the line first ahead of his teammate Lando Norris.
“Deep down I knew this was gonna come,” Ricciardo said over team radio after claiming victory. “So thanks … thanks for having my back. And for anyone who thought I left, I never left. I just moved aside for a while. Thanks guys.”
Ricciardo was in his element after the race as well, seemingly hardly believing he had pulled off the shock victory.
It was a crazy race, with championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crashing out in a horrifying crash that saw Verstappen’s rear tyre on top of Hamilton’s helmet.
It was a telling fact for Ricciardo that the 27 points he won for the weekend via third place in the Sprint qualifying race, the race win and the race winning fastest lap, only took him to 83 points for the season — which is only good enough for eighth so far, still 13.5 points behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and 49 points behind his teammate Norris.
But with Ricciardo’s 27 points and Norris’ 18 points for second, compared to Ferrari’s 20 combined points between Charles Leclerc’s fourth and Sainz’s sixth, McLaren moved 14 points ahead of the Prancing Horse in third in the constructors championship.
McLaren are looking to retain third after claiming it last season as Ferrari had a shocking year, finishing sixth overall.
And while Ricciardo and Leclerc are friends on the grid — even waging prank war on each other on flights in 2019 — and the Ferrari driver said he was happy for the Aussie, he said it’s a scary message for the rest of the grid.
“Days like this shows they are really on it,” Leclerc told Sky Sports F1.
“I am very happy for Daniel, it is great to see him perform as he would have done last year. He is an incredible driver and it is great to see him back at 100 per cent.
“It’s true that he had a bad first part of the season. Even for us it was difficult seeing him struggling like that compared to Lando. And finally seeing him perform like the Daniel of the last few years like he did, it’s pleasant to see.
“But for us, it is bad news if he keeps performing like this. It is pushing us to try and be perfect every weekend and that is exactly what we will try to do in the next few weekends.”
Before this weekend, Norris was playing a lone hand for McLaren with three third placed finishes, only two missing the points and an excellent start to the season.
Ricciardo on the other hand missed points four times and his best result was fourth in Belgium a fortnight ago.
But before the mid-season break, Ricciardo was struggling with his best finish fifth at Silverstone.
He said taking time away from the sport made all the difference.
“I think just the break, just August was good to really just switch off for a little bit,” Ricciardo said. “It was hard to get that kind of step back and look from afar and kind of gain perspective. So I think it’s definitely helped me return to a bit of form.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl agreed that the time away made all the difference.
“We all don’t know what he did in those two weeks (during the summer break),” Seidl said of Ricciardo. “Also don’t really want to know. It’s just good to have a break, get some distance as well after a very intense period for him where he was putting in a lot of energy and the results didn’t come.
“Maybe he exactly needed that break to step away, think, reflect, and then come back and apply everything we’d worked through in the first half of the season.
“Somehow that seems to have worked since Spa onwards and worked out now over the course of the triple header, even if it wasn’t visible in Zandvoort because we struggled with the performance of the car.
“So, very happy with him, with this step now, that he’s pulled off this great win, and for Lando. Great performance from both guys and we look forward to a strong second half of the season from (Daniel’s) side and a strong continuation of form for Lando.”