An analysis of Daniel Ricciardo’s terrible qualifying form adds to the case that McLaren would be right to replace him at the end of the season.
Ricciardo is ranked last and equal-last on the grid in two crucial qualifying metrics against teammate Lando Norris.
Officially, Ricciardo has out-qualified Norris just twice this season – in Spain and Canada – and there were pretty large mitigating factors in both.
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In Canada, Norris watched a soaking wet Q2 from the garage with engine issues.
Ricciardo was four tenths quicker than Norris in Q1, but even in the wet Norris’ engine issues would’ve been crippling.
And in Barcelona, Norris missed out on Q3 after his quickest lap in Q2 was deleted thanks to a track-limits violation.
The only other head-to-head battle that’s as lopsided as the one at McLaren is the one at Haas between Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, in favor of the former.
Breaking down the qualifying head-to-head further exposes just how far off the pace Ricciardo is on Saturdays.
F1 tracks are broken down into three sectors. Across all qualifying sessions this season, Ricciardo has been quicker than Norris in just five sectors – and three of them were in Canada.
The other two were the final sector in both Jeddah and Silverstone.
In this metric, his head-to-head against Norris is the worst on the grid.
Even in Austria, where Norris battled brake issues, the young Brit was faster than the Aussie in every sector in Q1. Norris was also quicker in all three sectors in Barcelona, where it’s safe to say he would’ve out-qualified Ricciardo if not for the track limits violation.
In total, Norris has made seven Q3 appearances to Ricciardo’s five. The Aussie has been knocked out in Q1 twice – in Bahrain and Austria.
As a result of this lopsided qualifying battle, the race battle sits in Norris’ favor 8-3 where both cars have finished the race. They have one DNF each.
When you take off the Aussie-tinted glasses, it’s hard to argue Ricciardo is deserving of the seat.
Yes, he has the Monza win to his name, but even on that day Norris appeared quicker at times and was told to not attack Ricciardo to preserve the team’s 1-2. Ricciardo can only hang his hat on that for so long.
He’s shown flashes of brilliance, like the double overtake of the two Alpines in the above video at the last outing at Hungary, but he followed it up with a clumsy collision with Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin that earned him a five-second penalty.
Ricciardo doesn’t have the confidence in the car he needs to push the limits. When he was at Red Bull, driving a chassis designed by Adrian Newey, he knew the car had his back. He knew he could make those incredible late lunges he became known for, or in qualifying brake just a few meters later, and the car underneath would be stable him.
He simply doesn’t have that in the McLaren.
At Renault – now Alpine – Ricciardo was starting to come good as his tenure at the side ended. He even picked up two podiums late in the year. Despite having publicly committed to the third year of his McLaren contract, Ricciardo could do worse than moving back to his old squad.
McLaren has slipped to fifth behind Alpine in the constructors’ championship, and the blame can be put firmly on Ricciardo’s shoulders. While both Alonso and Ocon are consistently scoring points for the French squad, Ricciardo has scored only a quarter of the amount of Norris.
Any way you look at it, Ricciardo has been absolutely trounced by Norris this season, and if McLaren want to move up the grid, they need to start by replacing Daniel Ricciardo.
Having said that, replacing him with Oscar Piastri – who has never driven in an F1 race – presents its own set of problems.
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