Daniel Ricciardo hopes the new generation of Formula 1 car will allow him to be a leader for McLaren again in 2022 after struggling last season.
The Australian joined from Renault amid high expectations but never got fully comfortable with last year’s McLaren and had to play second fiddle to teammate Lando Norris for the majority of 2021. With such a radical change in regulations for this season, Ricciardo is hoping the new MCL36 will suit him more and allow him to perform at a higher level.
“There’s a lot of unknowns now, that’s a fact, but I think with change definitely comes some optimism where maybe this will actually get me to lean on my strengths more or whatever,” Ricciardo said. “I’ve done a few laps in the sim — I’ve done a few sessions, so more than a few — and I think so far it’s been going pretty good; I’m pretty happy with where I am at with the car at the moment. How that correlates on track we have to see.
“But I am excited for new cars, and it’s going to be different to me as well. A lot of the comparisons are to an F2 car but I never raced F2, so there’s going to be a few unknowns for me but I am prepared and excited for those. So hopefully you can see me driving as free as a bird in 2022.”
Now entering his 12th season in Formula 1, Ricciardo admits his experience leads him to have high expectations of himself and targeting a more prominent role for McLaren this year.
“I will always try… and it’s not to outshine Lando off the track, but it’s just I’ll always try and present myself as a leader. In my 12th year now in Formula 1 I expect that from myself, to certainly give the team some guidance at the very least.
“I think that’s why I’m also excited with the new car and that, I’ll be like, ‘This reminds me of this time back then or this is how we attacked that issue or did that so let’s think about trying to do it this way, blah blah blah,’ So I do look forward to the challenges ahead and hopefully my experience can be beneficial, not only to myself but to McLaren as a whole.
“Even last year through my struggles there was still a lot of feedback I gave that Lando also was on board with, and even if he was up the road he was still saying, ‘Yeah, actually I would love the car to be able to do that too’ and things like that. So I think we can still bounce off each other to better the team.”
Ricciardo added that he learned a lot about himself last year in terms of how he needs to approach challenges and react when he is finding the going tough.
“That’s kind of in a way the beauty of some struggles, is that there’s always something to learn from a struggle or a mistake, whatever — you learn through experience,” he said. “The approach, without going in too deep but for sure at times when I was like, ‘OK it’s not working’ I would bury my head in it and try and figure it out. But at least for me, getting away from it in the August break — I’ll use that as the best example — was probably the best thing for me.
“So just having an awareness of where I’m at and knowing when is the time to dive deeper and when is the time to actually step back, I’ve gained some good knowledge with that now. I’m sure there will still be highs and lows but I think I’ll be able to adapt to those better with what I went through in 2021.”