McLaren fast track Ricciardo from newbie to expert

Date published: January 5 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

Daniel Ricciardo

McLaren principal Andreas Seidl said his team will put their new recruit Daniel Ricciardo through an intense pre-season.

Traditionally when a driver switches to a new team in Formula 1 they would have the winter and two weeks of testing to become familiar with their new surroundings.

Ricciardo though won’t get that luxury since 2021 testing is reduced to three days, meaning only one-and-a-half days for Ricciardo on the track in McLaren’s new challenger.

So, the team are lining up an intense pre-season schedule to make sure that their newbie Ricciardo ends up feeling like a McLaren expert in no time.

“Having a new driver on board is always a very interesting challenge,” Seidl is quoted by The Race.

“It’s a combination of a very methodical approach and competence because I’m sure the engineers will be eager to share with the driver tonnes and tonnes of information and solutions, but you need to do the right things. There won’t be a lot of time to test on track, less than any other time, which increases the challenge.

“The objective is to be like Daniel has driven a McLaren and has worked with his engineers a long time, but it’s actually the first race. From there, just work backwards.

“We have a clear plan in place of how to integrate him in the best possible way. The main focus is on integration on the technical side, on the racing side. But in parallel to that we have a programme in place to integrate him as a team member on the communication side, the marketing side and the business side. That will start flat out from the beginning of January.

“There’s not a lot of time. It will involve a lot of sessions, both online, but at the same time also with a lot of presence at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre].

“The target is to make sure he feels at home with us as quickly as possible, then looking forward to perform together from the first race onwards.”

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Lando Norris (McLaren)

As well as a new driver in Ricciardo, McLaren also have a new power unit to integrate ahead of the new season after returning to Mercedes.

But, Seidl thinks that will be a much simpler task than getting Ricciardo prepared.

“If I had to rank the impacts of a shorter winter testing, the biggest impact is on a driver,” he said.

“The one that will have more effect by such a short preparation is the driver because he won’t have driven the car for such a long time. There’s quite a lot to learn.

“The second impact is on the aerodynamic understanding of the car and then associated set-up optimisation – ride heights for example. The third impact is reliability overall. I wouldn’t say that the power unit specifically is necessarily at the top of the list, because with the power unit, in terms of performance optimisation, there’s a lot you can do at the rig, at the dyno, or even in simulation.

“And from an operational point of view, you can test them even if the car is not running on track. I hope from a power unit point of view, that should be a relatively smoother process, because we’ve been collaborating with quite an established group like [Mercedes AMG] HPP.”

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