The Monaco Grand Prix is where Daniel Ricciardo’s first season at McLaren experienced its lowest ebb and the 2022 edition has left him with similar feelings thus far.
Ricciardo loves Monaco and has two pole positions here, but started and finished 12th in 2021, when the reality of his incompatibility with the McLaren set in.
He was lapped by his teammate during the race when Norris, who had been half a second faster in qualifying, finished third.
The Monaco GP in 2022 is going to get even worse. Ricciardo crashed early in Friday practice and on Saturday he never seemed to make up enough of that lost time to match Norris.
While Norris made it back to Q3 and will be fifth in line after beating both Mercedes, Ricciardo will start 14th – after finishing a seventh tenth slower than Norris in Q2.
Asked by The Race if this was a different situation than last year: “Unfortunately not. I’m not saying we’re in a very different place.
“If I just take this weekend, it’s clear compared to last year’s weekend, it’s a similar feeling after qualifying in terms of the gap and the feel.
“The morning was all about getting back into a rhythm and groove. And I wasn’t too concerned about the stopwatch. It was more like me coming back, references and things like that.
“And then I think in Q1 we came out at a decent pace, at the pace of what we should be.
“But if everyone then takes the second step in Q2 and finds the jump in lap time, the evolution of the circuit, and of course gets that little bit more out of the car, then it was comparable to last year.
“I felt like it was hard to take that step and really get on top of it. So I think that feeling was similar.”
Ricciardo said he feels like he is in “familiar territory from 12 months ago”. That’s worrying, since 2022 was meant to change things.
Last year’s McLaren was a car that had followed several years of the same development cycle and had ingrained characteristics that were inconsistent with Ricciardo’s natural driving style under braking and cornering.
Brand new technical regulations for 2022 were intended to provide a fresh start, but Monaco made it clear that there is still a fundamental problem to be solved.
Ricciardo’s lack of confidence in the car is so evident in a comparison of the Q2 lap with Norris, who consistently has more speed entering the corner.
Perhaps the most telling sign was that Ricciardo had to downshift to third through Massenet, while Norris kept him in fourth, comfortable that the car wouldn’t just push wide.
Norris was also much faster through Casino, where Ricciardo needed a big boost of confidence. In those corners alone, Ricciardo loses about three tenths. In his previous round, even without such a lift, there was a loss of two tenths.
“He just doesn’t feel 100% comfortable in the car, especially when it comes to qualifying when you have to push yourself to the limit,” said Andreas Seidl, McLaren team principal.
“And at the same time, he’s up against Lando, who is just an impressive driver.
“And when you add things up, that’s the situation we’re in right now.”
This disappointing performance caps off a rough few days for Ricciardo. McLaren continues to insist a car problem destroyed its Spanish GP but refuses to reveal what it was.
After that race, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown admitted that Ricciardo’s high-profile move so far has not lived up to expectations, something Ricciardo has admitted.
There have also been questions about his contract and how long it could last.
Ricciardo continues to benefit publicly from team boss Seidl’s unwavering support.
However, it remains to be seen whether McLaren’s patience will pay off or whether the seemingly relentless efforts to make Ricciardo more comfortable in his car will remain futile.