Daniel Ricciardo’s poor form remains a mystery as pundits hypothesise about what’s holding him back.
The Aussie F1 star finished 13th at the Styrian Grand Prix on the weekend in another dismal result, while teammate Lando Norris enjoyed a much easier ride to cross the line fifth.
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Ricciardo surged from 13th on the grid to ninth in the opening lap but fell back after his car suffered a loss of power, and he was never able to recover.
His first season with McLaren is providing plenty of headaches as Ricciardo battles to adjust to the intricacies of his new car, with both himself and the team struggling to comprehend why he’s so much slower than Norris on race day.
Former F1 star Jolyon Palmer took a deep dive into the data from Ricciardo’s race in Baku a few weeks ago, where he finished ninth, and was perplexed to find there’s no real trend about where the West Australian is going wrong.
Palmer’s primary takeaway is Ricciardo is struggling with braking — a problem the Honey Badger identified earlier in the season.
“I looked through all of Ricciardo’s data compared to Norris a couple of weekends ago when he was struggling in Baku and I was trying to get my head around what’s going on and is there a trend — there’s not always a trend,” Palmer told the BBC Chequered Flag podcast this week.
“Norris is maybe more comfortable on the brakes. He’s braking very well, compared to Ricciardo, who’s usually very good on the brakes himself. But … there’s not one particular thing that Ricciardo’s struggling with.
“It’s very difficult to take any absolute conclusion from it. Braking is everything in F1 — in any motorsport. For any young driver coming through, if you can’t brake, you can’t drive.
“If you can’t get the brakes to work in a Formula 1 car and get on top of the braking, you’re going to be slow and maybe Ricciardo can’t get his head around an efficient way to stop the car and get it rolled into the corner.
“It’s the braking and then the entry phase (into corners) that is crucial in not just F1, in motorsport.”
Daniel Ricciardo is searching for answers.Source:Getty Images
Palmer was puzzled because Ricciardo was renowned for his late breaking at Red Bull, and said he’s never seen it before at the top level where someone struggles with the brakes so badly they’d lose as much time as he is.
“He’s almost famous for his braking — that’s the mad thing,” Palmer said. “He is famously the last of the late breakers, from so far back he knows how to break late.
“I’ve never seen it before that someone cannot really, in the modern day, not get up to speed with the braking.”
F1 commentator Jack Nicholls said the most bizarre part of the problem is not just that Ricciardo is slower than Norris — it’s how much slower he is.
“It’s the gap that is too huge,” Nicholls told Chequered Flag. “It’s just such a huge gap.
“If we were talking about this, Ricciardo’s lacking his three tenths (of a second) because he’s not quite there on the brakes you’d be like, ‘OK that makes sense’. But sometimes it’s a second. And on a track with seven corners … that’s six corners he’s losing a second. That’s where it’s baffling.”
Ricciardo was devastated after the race in Austria, believing he could have achieved much more had it not been for his loss of power.
“It’s disheartening for sure. Out of our control for sure,” Ricciardo said.
“I look at positions — I was ahead of (Carlos) Sainz on the same strategy and he finished sixth so I think we could have been sixth.
“It was painful to see all the work undone when you’re trying to fix it and everyone’s just going past you.
“The weekend went from bad worse and I look forward to getting out of here and coming back next week with a fresh approach.”
When will his luck turn? (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Ricciardo added he wasn’t sure what the exact issue with his car was.
“It hasn’t (happened before). I don’t know exactly what it is yet,” he said.
“I know a lot of cars were looking for clear air to get some cooling so it could have been temperature-related. If I was to have a wild guess right now I would say that but I’m honestly not sure.
“I mean it’s obviously heartbreaking for me and disheartening but I’m not the only one that feels this pain.”
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