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Daniel Ricciardo has every right to complain about how the biggest gamble of his F1 career has panned out so far.

His shock switch from Renault to McLaren was never meant to be a cakewalk.

But a quirky car that — as he explains — must be driven on a “knife’s edge” to extract its full potential wasn’t on the cards.

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“I mean, I told them I’d be half a second quicker,” Ricciardo jokes about his arrival in an Australian exclusive interview with foxsports.com.au prior to the French Grand Prix.

The daunting switch has coincided with the longest period he has ever spent away from home, where he left in pursuit of his F1 dream in 2007.

He was last in Australia on June 1 2020, and isn’t expected to step foot back in his home country this year, barring any miracle that would see November’s Grand Prix in Melbourne staged.

“I am missing home,” Ricciardo says. “I’m missing family and friends, so that can certainly get me down.

“Other drivers, even if they don’t live at home, they’re a quick flight if they’re based in Europe, like most are. So they’re able to see family and friends so much easier.

“This year will probably be the first year since I left home where I’ll actually get homesick.

“Let’s say I’m pretty aware of that.”

Nonetheless, Ricciardo is uncomfortable complaining.

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He never wants to come off as ungrateful or, worse yet, like he’s making excuses.

Sheepishly, he agrees that parts of the 2021 season have been the toughest of his career, from a driving perspective.

Asked how he would rate his first six races at McLaren, he says: “Oh, don’t make me do that … I mean, from a results point of view, I wouldn’t give myself too much of a flattering grade.”

Laughing, he adds: “But I don’t want to say what (number) I think because then it just makes me sound pretty sh*t! But there’s definitely room to improve.”

Eventually, he settles on a five out of 10, although it’s a painful admission that comes with a caveat.

“On a more positive off-track grade, I would definitely give myself a nine,” he says.

“The results aren’t through a lack of trying and I certainly feel like I’ve put in the work … So although my score is a five out of 10 now, I’m uber confident that increases at the year goes on.

“So panic not, my friends.”

Ricciardo has never panicked, and always thrived when the odds have been against him.

In 2014, he outdrove a four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel, in his debut season at Red Bull, where the German had been settled for five years.

Daniel Ricciardo and his mother Grace after the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018.Source: Getty Images

In 2020, he claimed two podiums at Renault, a team which hadn’t had a driver in F1’s top three in more than nine years.

Even making it to F1 at all, without significant financial backing, is the realisation of a dream that, for most, is fanciful at best.

Ricciardo is now in his 11th season, which he’s spending at a fifth F1 team, on which his lifelong dream of winning a world title hinges.

Dauntingly, McLaren hasn’t won a Grand Prix since 2012, and hasn’t stabled a world champion since Lewis Hamilton in 2008.

Realistically, becoming an F1 world champion is a long shot.

But the adversity Ricciardo overcomes in 2021 could, ultimately, elevate him to the peak of his powers, and lay the ground work for a watershed moment in Australian motorsport.

Australia has not had a Formula One world champion since 1980 – a streak Ricciardo still hasn’t given up hope of breaking, even with the odds more heavily stacked against him than ever.

“I’m aware now that to win five titles is becoming slimmer and slimmer,” he admits. “But still, to win one, I think there’s time on my side.

“McLaren is certainly where my ambition is and I definitely want to see this one through, hopefully with a lot of success.”

McLaren hasn’t stabled a world champion since Lewis Hamilton in 2008.Source: AP

‘LIKE KICKING WITH MY LEFT’

At 31 years old, and just months into a fresh three-year deal, time still favours Ricciardo, who has often been rated as one of the category’s best drivers.

Sleeping F1 giant, McLaren, is still just stepping out of hibernation, although a massive rules shake-up in 2022 could shuffle the deck.

And if the team plays its cards right, seven-time Grand Prix winner Ricciardo — and teammate Lando Norris — could be in the hunt for wins once more.

First and foremost, however, Ricciardo must overcome a significant hurdle.

Feeling comfortable in new surrounds has come relatively quickly, he says, but feeling comfortable in the cockpit has not.

Ricciardo has made no secret that his new drive has its list of quirks that don’t gel with his driving style.

Just how difficult the transition is, however, becomes clearer as he explains it’s similar to a top footballer learning to become dominant with their weaker foot.

“I’m basically trying to get good at kicking a ball with my left foot,” he says.

“So my instinct is obviously (to) kick a ball with my right foot, and that’s easy, but to really try and perfect this car, I’m trying now to learn to kick with my left. That’s maybe a good analogy.”

Ricciardo isn’t naive — he fully expected the McLaren to be different to what he experienced at previous teams.

Just not this different, or temperamental.

“The team’s had some really good results the last few years, so once you can kind of balance it on this nice knife’s edge, the car can certainly be quick,” Ricciardo says.

“I think that’s probably another way of putting it as well; it does have a bit of a sweet spot, but it’s just quite small and obviously if you’re outside of it then you’re not getting the performance.”

He adds that changes to front tyres and narrowing of the car floor at the rear have likely contributed to the unfamiliarity, too, as Norris has made similar observations.

Ricciardo is still coming to terms with driving the McLaren.Source: Getty Images

‘DIFFERENT NEEDS TO BECOME NORMAL’

After seven races, Ricciardo has outdriven Norris just once, although there were signs in France last weekend that the he’s closing the gap.

A long road still lies ahead, but Ricciardo understands it’s a punishment worth enduring — a two-footed footballer is a dangerous weapon, after all.

“Adapting to the Renault, I was still able to adapt with a similar driving style or something that was more natural for me,” he says “The McLaren is a little more detailed than that, I guess.

“But I look at it as a positive as well. In the long run, if I can, let’s say, learn how to drive with a different style, then I have more tools in my arsenal.”

He adds: “I’ve got to a point now where I’m also not trying to fill my head with it. It’s different, sure, but it can’t be different forever.

“At some point this is it, this is the car I’ve got and different needs to become normal and get on with it.”

STAYING AT MCLAREN… AND THE LANDO ‘BROMANCE’ THAT ISN’T

Ricciardo is sick of moving around.

He stunned Red Bull when he quit in 2018, seeking a fresh start as the team’s obsession with Max Verstappen grew to scary new levels.

Less than two years later, he had seen all he needed to of Renault, and was on the move once more.

Three teams in four seasons certainly hasn’t made Ricciardo’s McLaren transition any easier.

Asked if that means he’s now looking to stay put long-term, he laughs again, saying: “For sure, for sure.

“Changing teams and that, although I’ve done a bit of it the last few years it’s certainly an inconvenience and you’re obviously forced to relearn things. But I think the beauty of that as well is you have a chance to grow and to learn more.

Ricciardo revealed the strength of his bond with Lando Norris outside of the garage has been largely overstated.Source: Getty Images

“So it’s more challenging, but I think in the long run it will pay off and that’s why I certainly want to stay here and make it work, build up this speed and this understanding over the course of years until when it eventually feels perfect.”

Ricciardo has been thrilled with his new team from the little time he’s spent there, praising its work ethic, attention to detail and open-mindedness.

He’s also pleased that he’s on the same page with teammate Norris at the development table, even if they aren’t anywhere else.

The F1 world became infatuated with the pair’s apparent ‘bromance’ since Norris made his debut in 2019, but Ricciardo revealed the strength of their bond outside of the garage has been largely overstated.

“You can’t deny there is a generation gap,” Ricciardo says. “There’s even some phrases and some things I’ll say that he just doesn’t get, so you have to pick your conversations at times.

“Is it the bromance he had with Carlos (Sainz)? It isn’t yet. But I honestly just put that down to generation as well.”

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He adds: “In all that being said, there’s certainly no friction or anything like that. I’d say we’re getting down to business for now and putting that first and foremost. Not trolling each other or anything too much.”

How their working relationship progresses will have a major influence on McLaren’s overall development towards a championship-contending car.

Ricciardo wants to push the team in one direction, saying he wants to become a better driver of the current car, but also develop one that leans more on his strengths.

As of last week, Ricciardo said Norris was looking for similar improvements, which bodes well for the McLaren garage.

“It’s a two-way process now, but the team’s been great. I want to give them more absolutely, but I think they also understand this is a journey, Ricciardo says.

“I signed a three-year contract with them so would love to have fireworks already, but we know that we’ve got time on our side to get it right and go through the process properly.”

‘I’LL CLICK MY FINGERS, AND IT’LL HAPPEN’

Meanwhile, Ricciardo and his former Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul haven’t been to the tattoo parlour yet.

The day will come soon; Abiteboul owes his former star some ink having made a bet he effectively wanted to lose – and did last year when Ricciardo stood on the podium in Germany.

“Now it’s just a matter of time,” an excited Ricciardo says.

“I’m trying to do it in London because I know some tattoo artists there, so we’re just trying to work some dates when we’re both together in London.

“Then I’ll click my fingers, and it’ll happen.”

Ricciardo wishes he could enter a fight for podiums, wins, or even see his family again in the same way; with a click of his fingers.

In a way, he likes that he can’t.

“If I am making these sacrifices and being away from family and friends, and missing events — even like families getting older, grandparents and all that, life goes on,” he says.

“So if I am over here missing important things, which I do value a lot, then I’m like, ‘Alright, well I better make this right and make this work.

“Otherwise it’s all for nothing.”

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Valtteri Bottas crash slammed by Lando Norris, video, Mercedes wipes out McLaren, Red Bull

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Lando Norris has blasted Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for a “stupid” error that cost him his race at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The McLaren driver was one of many Turn 1 casualties after Bottas out-broke himself in wet conditions a turn one, crashing straight into the back of Norris and causing a knock-on effect.

Some drivers were able to pit and continue racing, but not Norris, whose streak of 15-straight points finishes was ended by the Finn’s error.

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While the wet conditions were undoubtedly tricky, Norris was in no mood to sympathise.

“There’s not much to say is there? It’s not my fault, like, to be honest he (Bottas) just came over to me then and apologised,” Norris said, per the F1 website.

“But apologies are nice, but it doesn’t change the result or anything.

“So it’s Lap 1 of the race, no one has to do anything stupid but that’s what they did today. So just ruined it.”

Bottas accepted he had caused a “mess”, which saw himself and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez retire with damage.

Race restart blunder BURNS Hamilton | 00:55

“I had a poor start,” he said. “Wheelspin off the line, and lost places, and then braking into first corner I was right in the gearbox of Lando and I just locked the wheels.

“So probably being that close didn’t calculate quite right the braking point, locked two wheels, hit him, and then it was a mess.”

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was also at fault having caused a separate big crash at Turn 1 behind Bottas.

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Lewis Hamilton dizzy on podium, has long Covid effects, Mercedes, result

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Lewis Hamilton, who battled from the back of the field to take third place in an intense and exhausting Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, admitted he may still be suffering from the effects of Covid-19 which caused him to miss a race last year.

The Mercedes driver, who now leads the championship by six points, was visibly unwell on the podium after the dramatic race and struggled to raise his trophy.

He was initially absent from the press conference reserved for the first three drivers because he was seeing a doctor.

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“I’m ok, had real big dizziness and everything got a bit blurry on the podium,” said the world champion before opening up about the problems of life post-Covid.

“I’ve been fighting all year really with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year and it’s still, it’s a battle.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone about it but I think (the effects of Covid are) lingering. I remember the effects of when I had it and training has been different since then.

“The level of fatigue you get is different and it’s a real challenge.”

Race restart blunder BURNS Hamilton | 00:55

The 36-year-old missed the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain in December after testing positive for Covid-19 and has gone on to win four races this season, including the British GP at Silverstone a fortnight ago.

“I continue to train and prepare the best way I can. Today, who knows what it is?

“Maybe it’s hydration, I don’t know, but I’ve definitely not had this experience. Had something similar at Silverstone but this is way worse.”

Esteban Ocon won the race at the Hungaroring with Sebastian Vettel in second. Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, and the rest of the Formula One paddock now breaks until the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa on August 29.

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F1 2021, Hungarian Grand Prix, live, Formula One, Daniel Ricciardo, news, start time Australia, how to watch, stream, Lewis Hamilton,

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LIVE: Formula One title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are set for more first-lap fireworks at the Hungarian Grand Prix, after coming together in an ugly collision at the British GP a fortnight ago.

Both drivers furiously blamed each other for the early crash, which ended Verstappen’s race as Hamilton went on to win and narrow the championship gap to just eight points behind the Red Bull driver.

Now Hamilton – chasing his 100th F1 win – starts from pole at the Hungaroring for a record-equalling eighth time, ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen in third.

Adding to the excitement is the weather forecast, with rain already falling on the track and likely to continue until the race.

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo qualified a ‘painful’ 11th, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also wants to charge up the field after crashing in Q2 and starting 15th.

Follow the action in our live blog below!

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Lap 1: Lewis sends Max CRASHING OUT! | 01:37

HOW TO WATCH

Watch LIVE on Fox Sports 506 from 9.30pm AEST ahead of the race start at 11pm.

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RACE CENTRE: Live lap times and stats

LIVE BLOG

Follow all the action in our live blog below. If you can’t see the blog, click here.

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