A key aspect of McLaren’s success going forward will be down to its ability to create a similar working relationship between Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo as Norris had with Carlos Sainz.
The previous pairing of Norris and Sainz was extremely effective both on and off the track, with the two enjoying an impressive personal relationship at the same time as being closely matched in terms of performance — as was demonstrated by this recent light-hearted video featuring the two voicing puppets of themselves recounting their time together:
After helping McLaren to third in the constructors’ championship last season, Sainz leaves for Ferrari to be replaced by Ricciardo and McLaren’s racing director Andrea Stella says trying to maintain that strength from a driver perspective is crucial.
“He’s proven that he’s one of the best out there,” Stella said of Ricciardo. “The most important thing from my point of view is that we preserve the conditions that we created to allow that high level of collaboration between Carlos and Lando. But it’s not just about preserving those conditions, we may have to adapt them.
“Daniel is not Carlos and his relationship with Lando will be different. It may be similar, but it will not be the same and we need to be mindful of that and adapt with a view to maintain the standards.
“After two years of racing in F1 and having been so evenly matched with Carlos, Lando has shown that he has all the qualities to become a top driver in the sport. We head into 2021 with a very exciting and competitive driver line-up, that’s complemented by two excellent test and development drivers in Oliver (Turvey) and Will (Stevens).”
Technical director James Key worked with Ricciardo at Toro Rosso so has some knowledge of what to expect from the Australian, who has since gone on to take seven wins and 31 podiums for Red Bull and Renault.
“He’s an excellent driver to work with,” Key said. “He will have accumulated plenty of experience and knowledge since I last worked with him, so I expect he’ll be several steps ahead of where he was back then in terms of what he’ll bring to the team.
“He arrives as a proven race winner and is someone who can go toe to toe with the very best drivers. Daniel is very easy to get on with, but he’s hugely determined and that has a positive effect on any team. He will be a great reference point for us and, together with Lando, we will have one of the strongest driver pairings in the paddock.”