Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren team’s sly move flops hard

Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren team had a Friday night of misery at the Spanish Grand Prix — and a sly car upgrade appears to be the reason why.

Ricciardo finished the opening day of practice at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the 15th fastest on the grid — and teammate Lando Norris was also languishing in 12th.

On a day where Mercedes world champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas dominated the grid, McLaren’s struggles were one of the biggest questions to emerge ahead of Saturday night’s qualifying.

Ricciardo also had to watch on as his former Renault team, now Alpine, had their best day of practice for 2021 with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finishing the second practice session fourth and fifth — just 0.4 seconds behind Hamilton.

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McLaren’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.Source:AFP

The 31-year-old Aussie, however, was pleased with his team’s performance after they got plenty of miles and data fro their car — after quietly introducing a car upgrade.

The team made no formal announcement of its new car — and the news was casually revealed by McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl when speaking with reporters.

“We’ve some upgrades or modifications this morning. You can see a modified front wing and floor,” he said.

He later joked: “That was for you guys [the media] because some people complain I never speak about which parts we upgrade”.

The upgrades certainly didn’t help the team’s practice performance on Friday, but Ricciardo said after the session it was still to early to know what the team needs to change in its package set-up.

“Today, it’s close. Our positions don’t look great on paper, and we do have work to do but I’m only a second off in 15th, so it’s really close,” he told the official McLaren website.

“Every tenth counts at this point so we certainly have to find a few for tomorrow and put ourselves in a fighting position.

The upgraded McLaren in Spain.Source:AFP

“We’ve changed a few things on the car and it’s still too early to know what’s good and what needs work, but we’ll spend some time tonight looking at it. The important thing was that we got the laps in. I think FP2 was definitely better than FP1, even if the position doesn’t reflect that, so we’ll hopefully make another step in the morning.”

Norris called the first day with the upgraded car “tricky”.

Ricciardo has had a hot and cold start to his career with McLaren, scoring points in all three races this year.

However, he’s also been forced to accept that right now teammate Norris is by far the premier driver.

Ricciardo said after the Portugal race that he is still getting used to the quirks of his McLaren after jumping ship from Renault at the end of 2020, stating specifically that issues with locking the brakes continues to haunt his driving.

The Aussie F1 star was knocked out in Q1 as qualifying turned into a disaster last week but was able to move up from 16th on the grid to finish ninth in the main event and walk away with some points.

His British teammate finished on the podium in Italy and came fourth in Bahrain and Portugal. He is third in the driver championship.

Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo give a press conference at the Circuit de Catalunya.Source:AFP

Hamilton, meanwhile, is giddy with confidence after another strong day of practice,

“It has been a good start to the weekend and the track is awesome, it looks close, but it looks like we have got decent pace there.

“Once we have analysed these two sessions, we can hopefully have a better set-up for tomorrow,” said Hamilton, winner of two of this season’s three races.

He leads Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by eight points in the drivers’ standings with the Dutch contender way off the pace down in ninth after failing to register a decent post-lunch time.

Behind the Mercedes men came Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with the two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso fourth and fifth.

Spanish Grand Prix combined first and second practice times

Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1min 18.170se

Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:18.309

Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:18.335

Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1:18.466

Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1:18.518

Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:18.593

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:18.619

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:18.674

Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 1:18.785

Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 1:18.918

Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:18.947

Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:19.092

Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:19.122

Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:19.134

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:19.195

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:19.213

George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:19.957

Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:20.046

Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:20.326

Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) 1:20.753 (27)

— with AFP

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