Daniel Ricciardo believes the pressure he had from Carlos Sainz in the British Grand Prix forced him to push his McLaren more than he was comfortable with and was key to securing his first top-five finish for the team.
Sainz left McLaren for Ferrari over the winter with Ricciardo replacing him, but since his move from Renault the Australian has struggled relative to teammate Lando Norris. However, Ricciardo held off Sainz for most of the race at Silverstone last Sunday to finish fifth and he believes the fact he had to push his car harder than he’d want to if he wasn’t defending a position actually helped him find more performance within himself.
“A lot of pressure from Carlos the whole race,” Ricciardo noted. “He tried to overcut me but I heard he had a slow pit stop so it gave us track position again. He caught me so fast — I thought I would fight as hard as I could but if you said I would hold him off for 25 laps, I am not sure I would’ve been convinced.
“I was definitely ready for the fight. It is good because at the moment I’m still not completely 100% with the car and being aggressive with it. Having to defend forced me to drive a little over the limit at times and that helps with my confidence and feeling in the car.
“So, being forced to do that — drive a little bit out of my comfort zone — allowed me to feel the car a bit more and I actually took some confidence from that. So it was good to have the pressure. Good to hold him off, and I’m happy with the points and the results, but now I’ll keep doing some homework and try to find more speed.”
Despite the season-best result, Ricciardo says he doesn’t think it’s a race that has flicked a switch for him and expects to have to work hard to find further gains.
“I’m still not super quick, let’s say. I’m getting more comfortable but there is certainly some parts of the race and moments where I am like, ‘Ahhh… Just not quite there.’ It is getting there — I’m creeping up on it. It is taken 10 races to get a top-five, so I’m aware that is still probably going to be a steady process. I won’t expect it overnight but I’m certainly going to keep working hard at it.”