Daniel Ricciardo’s new team principal at McLaren has opened up on the reason the Formula One outfit was so keen to sign the Australian.
After losing Carlos Sainz to Ferrari – a move that somewhat surprised the British-based unit – McLaren took less than a week to unveil Ricciardo in his new orange livery alongside British rising star Lando Norris.
Now McLaren boss Andreas Seidl says the decision to sign the former Renault and Red Bull racer was based on maintaining a competitive driver pairing where each would push the other.
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While many rivals use a clear ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ driver – such as Ferrari clearly placing Charles Leclerc as their top priority ahead of new recruit Sainz, or Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leading that charge – McLaren’s rise up the constructors championships in the past two years has come from both drivers regularly banking strong points.
Continuing that balanced two-pronged approach is crucial this season, Seidl told Motorsport.com.
“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.”
The pair was separated by just 0.055 seconds in third qualifying at the season-opener in Bahrain. And while Ricciardo struggled with floor damage – and therefore pace – Norris rose from seventh to fourth in a strong finish for the McLaren duo.
With Ricciardo dropping to seventh from his grid position of sixth, the pair’s combined 18 points was good enough to move the team to third on the constructors championship – a highly promising beginning to the season.
Even more promising was the margin between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in his best qualifying lap and the McLaren duo, which was 0.3 seconds smaller 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 that we’re making a step as a team with the car towards the front and that we are heading in the right direction,” Seidl said.