As Daniel Ricciardo’s battle continues this season, his McLaren boss has uttered the words no Formula 1 driver ever wants to hear.
McLaren boss Zak Brown has given Daniel Ricciardo a brutal reality check, stating that his team-mate Lando Norris has a clear “lead” over the Australian.
Ricciardo struggled to master his car in his second year at McLaren and the Honey Badger’s season couldn’t have started much worse.
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He finished in the top 10 and has only earned World Cup points once so far – at the Australian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo finished 12th in the Spanish Grand Prix after qualifying ninth and couldn’t explain why he was unable to get the most out of his car despite trying four different tire strategies.
Ricciardo’s woes were summed up when he again finished behind Norris in Barcelona, even though the young Briton was extremely unwell and suffered tonsillitis during the race.
In words no F1 driver wants to hear, Brown said Norris is clearly driving better than Ricciardo, but he is desperate to see the Aussie improve for healthy competition within McLaren.
“Lando is definitely ahead,” the McLaren CEO told Sky Sports. “Of course we would like to see Daniel much closer to Lando and have a good battle between teams.
“Daniel is just not comfortable with the car yet.
“We are doing everything we can, again it was a disappointing weekend.”
In his strongest criticism of Ricciardo to date, Brown said the 32-year-old’s disappointing results so far have not been what McLaren signed up for when he was recruited to Renault.
“After Monza and a few races it has not met his or our expectations of what we expected,” he said.
“I think the only thing you can do as a team is keep working hard, keep the communication going, keep pushing and hope that what doesn’t click right now will click soon.”
Brown added that Ricciardo’s struggle only serves to highlight the strong form of Norris, who took his first podium of the season at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month.
“I think it also shows how good Lando is,” he said.
“If you look at the gap between Charles (Leclerc) and Carlos (Sainz), between Max (Verstappen) and Sergio (Perez), there are gaps between teammates.
“I think Lando is one of the best drivers in the world right now and I think it’s also kind of a compliment to how good Lando is when you see the gap that there is.”
Brown hopes Norris will recover in time for the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.
“He was very sick,” he said.
“We weren’t even sure if he would get the doctor’s permission to drive, but luckily he did.
“I think he should be fine. It’s Monday, he still doesn’t feel great today, but he has four days to recover, so I think so.”
Ricciardo was devastated after his disappointing performance in Spain.
“It was not a good race today,” he said. “I would love to find something positive, but it was just a struggle from the start.
“I was slow and just had a lot less grip than everyone around me.
“With the three stops, we had four chances on different sets of tires, but we didn’t have the speed on any of them. I’m not exactly sure why, to be honest, so we’ll try to check it out and understand.
“(I was) was very, very slow on all (the tires), so I don’t know how.
“Really, really sad race”.
Ricciardo said he hoped there was something wrong with his car so that at least there would be an explanation for his poor performance.
“It’s one of those races where it was so slow it almost sounds bad to say, but you hope something was wrong,” he said.
“You hope we find something like ‘Oh, that’s why’ because probably more worrying if we don’t.”
Originally published as ‘Disappointing’: McLaren boss drops brutal truth bomb on Daniel Ricciardo