McLaren recruit Daniel Ricciardo was prioritised by the team long before he made the move, with team principal Andreas Seidl confirming the thought process behind this acquisition.
Carlos Sainz had decided to leave the team to join Ferrari and it took less than a week for McLaren to unveil their new man in the aftermath. He was the designated driver to partner Lando Norris for the 2021 season.
While many teams have a defined number 1 and 2 when it comes to drivers, much of McLaren’s recent success stems from the fact that both their drivers have been consistent and notched vital points during races.
This propelled the team to a third-position finish last year, and Seidl saw that potential in Ricciardo before trying to sign him from Renault.
Seidl believes Ricciardo can contribute in a way that will only benefit the team in terms of achieving its goal.
“As you can imagine it was obviously important for me that when we made the decision to go for Daniel that we simply made sure for the team that we have again also from this year onwards, a very strong driver line-up,” Seidl said.
“Because key in the last two years for securing these positions we could secure in the constructors’ championship was that we always had two drivers who were there and always ready to score good points.
“I’m really happy with what we have seen so far from both guys. It’s great that we again seem to have a very strong driver line-up. We managed to get through both cars in Q3, both guys always very close together.”
On race day in the season-opener in Bahrain, Ricciardo was perhaps unable to do justice to his credentials as he ended the race in 7th position. However, a lot of that had to do with damage to the floor of his car, which dramatically hampered his pace. Norris, meanwhile, ended in 4th spot, which helped the team start the campaign with a reasonable tally.
The 18 points that the duo accrued as a result of their performances sees them sit on third position in the constructors’ championship.
The qualifying session also showed that the car is very much up to speed and only provides further encouragement to the team. The difference in speed with regard to the qualifying lap run by Max Verstappen and the McLaren duo was 0.3 seconds less than last season.
“The gap we had to pole position was smaller compared to what we could do last time we have been here in Bahrain, which is again an encouraging sign,” Seidl said.
“It shows that we’re making a step as a team with the car towards the front and that we are heading in the right direction.”