Ricciardo buoyed by improved McLaren pace in Australian GP

Daniel Ricciardo has been left buoyed by McLaren's pace after what he described as a "mega" team result at the Australian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

After a difficult start to the season for the McLaren squad there were signs of significant improvement across the Albert Park weekend.

Lando Norris topped Free Practice 3 and was fourth fastest in qualifying, three spots ahead of Ricciardo.

The pair then spent the majority of the race running in formation, Norris leading Ricciardo, as they came home a solid fifth and sixth.

According to Ricciardo the result was the outcome of a "smoother" weekend for the team, and is proof that McLaren has made sooner-than-expected gains with its 2022 car.

"I think that's probably the best way to sum up the weekend – we'll take it," he said.

"I mean, after Bahrain I was still very positive and I knew we could make a turnaround. I didn't think it would happen already, so for that reason I'll definitely take it.

"The weekend as a whole has been just smoother, smoother for all of us. And we've shown a lot more for it.

"I think parts of my race were more competitive. In the beginning I felt strong on the medium. But then on the hard that kind of last three quarters I drifted a bit back.

"I found a bit of pace after but [there are] still some parts of the race I can keep chipping away at.

"But yeah, team result was mega compared to the last few."

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A522

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Adding to Ricciardo's optimism about the result is that it came without any major upgrades and can instead be attributed to learning from the existing package.

"I think that is where a lot of my optimism came from after the first few races," he said.

"I knew the results were pretty poor at that stage. I knew also that we hadn’t understood everything about these new cars so I kept to the back of my mind that we might find something.

"I didn’t think it would happen by race three, but happy to have shown it here at home."

The Australian does, however, admit he needs to find some more consistency to get the best out of the car.

"I think parts of the race, certainly, I'll take some good things out of," he said. "And then others, still try and learn a little bit.

"I was aware that in some parts of the track I was slower, through like three and four, quite consistently, and I couldn't quite get on top of that. So I've got to understand how I can extract more out of myself and the car.

"I think it's there, just probably operating at that level more consistently. That's what I'll try and clean up."

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Ricciardo's season best performance came in front of a packed home crowd of 128,294, the third-highest race day attendance in the history of the Melbourne race.

Nearly 420,000 turned up over the four days of the event, being held in its entirety for the first time 2019, in what is an Australian GP attendance record that is also believed to be a record for a multi-day sporting event crowd in Australia.

"It has been nuts, so good," said Ricciardo when asked how it was racing back in Australia.

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"When I got out the car there was a pretty loud cheer and I was like, wow this is a cheer for sixth. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like winning here or even a podium, I would have to keep my ear plugs in.

"It is pretty awesome and I'm happy for everyone that came out. I think they had a good weekend."

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