Daniel Ricciardo says he wants to verify McLaren’s pace with evening running on the final day of testing in Bahrain, but all of the signs with his new team so far are encouraging.
Pre-season testing is taking place over two four-hour sessions during each of the three days in Bahrain, with the morning running from 10am-2pm local time and then the afternoon from 3pm-7pm. The latter session ends under floodlights to provide representative conditions compared to the race at the same venue, and Ricciardo — who has been quickest on each morning before handing over to Lando Norris — says he wants to feel how good the McLaren is when the schedule is reversed on Sunday.
“I think it’s all gone pretty smooth,” Ricciardo said. “I don’t know what could have gone better yet. Faster lap times! But generally it’s been pretty good and we’ve done most runs that we’ve planned. I do the evening session tomorrow, and I think that will just complete the picture. That’s obviously when we race here and qualify, so that’ll give me a better understanding of where the limit of the car is, in let’s say, more optimum conditions.
“It’s certainly handling itself pretty well at the moment. Not to dodge the question but I need to get one of these evening sessions under my belt. Even though we’ve been quick on the time sheets during the day sessions, the track has been 40 degrees (104F); it’s not that representative to what I’m used to here, so naturally it’s moving and sliding around.
“It doesn’t feel electrifying but relative to the track, yeah we are obviously doing OK. I think in 24 hours’ time I’ll probably get a better understanding of how well balanced it is. But I think both days, with 180 degree wind direction change, we’ve been pretty solid. There’s certainly more positives than not at the moment.”
Ricciardo expects to find out just how close to his full potential he can get in the McLaren tomorrow evening, after switching teams from Renault over the winter.
“It’s a tough one. You never want to admit that you are not driving to the limit yet or anything, but the reality is that it does take a little bit of time to execute it 100 percent,” he said. “I think I’m certainly getting close, but am I truly at one with the car yet? Not yet. I expect to get a fair bit out of myself tomorrow in the evening session and I expect to start getting closer to that.
“From a race weekend and dialing into strategic stuff with the team and going through a race simulation, I’m pretty comfortable. I think it’s really just me getting comfortable within myself and the car. It naturally takes a bit of time — but I don’t really want to give myself the time.”