Daniel Ricciardo believes his performance at the 2022 F1 Azerbaijan GP was a testament to McLaren's improvement after a difficult start to the year.
The Australian missed the pre-season shakedown in Bahrain after contracting COVID-19 and had only scored points once heading into the race weekend in Baku.
Amid criticism and speculation about his time in F1 with McLaren, Ricciardo managed to pull off an impressive drive to claim P8 last weekend. In the process, the 32-year-old also beat his teammate Lando Norris for the first time since the season opener in Bahrain, albeit with the help of team orders.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports F1 after the eighth round of the campaign, Daniel Ricciardo said:
“Every little bit obviously helps at the moment. I think there are still parts where I know I’m not perfect yet with this car, but I think we made a really good step this weekend. And also just understanding even more clear, like kind of the direction of set-up and things to help me kind of get the feeling I’ve been craving. That’s been positive, and obviously qualifying I was able to get a bit closer [to Norris]. Obviously, close is not good enough. It’s not what I’m ultimately striving for, but the way we were two weeks ago I’m certainly happy with the weekend as a whole.”
The Australian driver is not oblivious to his tribulations with the Woking-based team in the year and a half since joining from Renault after leaving Red Bull at the end of 2018. The Honey Badger added, saying:
“Obviously I’ve struggled to adapt fully to this car in the last 18 months. We are obviously trying to maybe do things to bring it more in my favour, see if that works. We are trying everything. I’m obviously getting the full support of the team and my engineers, we are working hard and I think we did make a good step this weekend.”
"Nice guys don’t get anywhere, particularly in Formula 1" - Former world champion issues warning for Daniel Ricciardo
Former driver Alan Jones feels Daniel Ricciardo needs to be less of a nice guy on track if he plans on staying on the F1 grid beyond the duration of his current contract with McLaren.
Jones won the 1980 world championship with Williams ahead of Nelson Piquet to become the second Australian after Sir Jack Brabham to achieve the feat. The veteran has also recorded 12 wins and 24 podiums throughout his F1 career.
In an interview with the Herald Sun in Australia ahead of the 2022 F1 Azerbaijan GP, the 75-year-old said:
“He [Daniel Ricciardo] is a great little race driver and he is a hell of a nice guy. But, of course, we all know nice guys don’t get anywhere, particularly in Formula 1. The bigger d**k you are, the better off you are – there are a few out there at the moment that have proved that. A contract in F1 doesn’t mean much. But, if the situation remains the same as it is, I have no doubt in my mind they will exercise one of those options that are in the contract.”
Ricciardo's deal with McLaren runs through until the end of 2023. There appear to be some contingencies, however, that could see a premature dissolution of the deal, although the details of the same are not completely transparent.