Ricciardo has gone back to school to drive McLaren
By Mat Coch
Saturday 15th May, 2021 - 10:40am
Daniel Ricciardo has highlighted the technique required under braking as one of the critical elements to extracting lap time from a modern Formula 1 car.
The Australian has made a high-profile switch from Renault to McLaren for this season and has spent the opening part of the year coming to grips with his new car.
Of specific focus has been maximising the car on the brakes, an area Ricciardo is widely regarded as being one of the strongest in F1.
“Braking is such a critical part of driving and of Formula One; the technique on braking, the feel you have of the car, it’s probably more important than actually the accelerator,” the 31-year-old told selected media, including Speedcafe.com.
“Each time I drive I guess my level of confidence and comfort is getting better, but I still need to improve a bit I’m still not 100 percent yet.”
That process is not helped by a change in tyre for this season which, according to McLaren technical director James Key, is not as good under braking as that used last year.
However, he does conceded there are differences between how different cars will feel on the brakes, based on the choices made by each team.
“Braking is quite a big hitter in lap time, and Dan’s always been a very, very strong braker,” Key explained.
“I think changing to a different car, you’ve always got to adapt a bit to the way that car feels under braking.
“The braking system itself often isn’t the major factor here,” he added.
“We all use very similar material, very similar systems, and so on.
“In terms of the pedal feel, to a certain extent, there’s a bit of variability there, but certainly the bite and the braking performance itself is often very similar.
“Where differences come are things like engine braking, and how that works, and how to tune it accordingly, how the chassis works, how the aerodynamics works and supports the car in certain conditions.
“What’s exacerbated that this year is the new tyres; we have a slightly weaker in certain conditions compared to before as well.
“This year, these tires are slightly weaker in certain areas and slightly stronger in others. And one of the changes that we’ve noticed is braking.
“So it is just a process of adapting your feeling and what you want to do to what the car is actually doing, and of course from our side trying to adapt the car and facilitate what Daniel is trying to do.
“There’s certain things we can’t change; tyres and other things will be the same.
“But in terms of the way the car behaves, so the mapping of the engine, the feeling of the pedal are all things in our control, and we are chipping away at all those things to try to find a solution which works.”
Behind the wheel, Ricciardo is also working hard to refine his technique in order to maximise the performance of his new package.
“It’s like being a beginner all over, having like tutors every corner; good job, do that better, okay, improve a bit more here,” he joked.
“Obviously, the feedback I’m getting from the team is good, and they’re obviously trying to try to get me into some good habits with this car and the kind of characteristics.
“Whether it’s braking, or the way you kind of get on throttle, some are unique and I guess I’m still having to be a little bit conscious about that, and teach myself enough that it does become natural.
“It still does require a bit of thought in some corners,” he added.
“[In] the quicker corners it’s a bit easier, you kind of just chuck it in and hold on, but the longer corners, you’re in the corner for a long time, and having to be quite delicate and precise, that’s where the car is sensitive.
“It’s working well some ways but not well the others, and I’m trying to programme myself to basically learn how to drive faster, so I’m back in school.”
Ricciardo recorded his equal best result of the season at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, starting seventh and finishing sixth.
Formula 1 next heads to Monaco on May 20-23, a race the Perth-native won in 2018 while driving for Red Bull.