After securing a top-six finish in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo says he still has the “last 5%” of performance to find in his McLaren Formula 1 car as he continues to adjust to his new team.

The Australian, who joined McLaren over the winter from midfield rivals Alpine, admitted after just one and a half days of running in the MCL35M during pre-season testing that he needed more time to get fully up to speed with his new car heading into the 2021 campaign.

Despite not yet feeling fully comfortable in McLaren’s 2021 challenger, Ricciardo produced a lap good enough to take sixth place on the grid in his maiden qualifying session for the Woking squad in Bahrain, just ahead of teammate Lando Norris.

“I am content,” said Ricciardo of his qualifying efforts. “As experienced as I am in F1, the truth is that a new car is a new car.

“I realised quite quickly that you can get to that 95%. But finding that last 5% is going to take time. I still don’t think I got all of it out of it, but I certainly made a good step today.

“I would not say my lap was phenomenal, but let us say for the first qualifying with a new team I am actually really happy with the progress.” 

Asked where he left the last 5%, Ricciardo replied: “I was pretty slow in Turn 11 most of the session, so I think that was the corner.

“But it is probably more than actual corners, it is having that confidence in the car that is going to stick, it is going to grip and all of that.

“But I certainly had a lot more composure today, so that was good. We will just work from here. I am not over excited but I will enjoy a better day today.”

Having spent the majority of the weekend trailing Norris in the timesheets, Ricciardo turned the tables on his McLaren teammate in Q3 by the slender margin of just 0.047s.

“That is a small tick for sure,” Ricciardo explained. “But the biggest enjoyment I have now is knowing that my confidence in the car tonight made a big step.

“All through testing and slowly came, and yesterday was a little bit more in P2 than P1, but I still knew I needed to find quite a bit of time today if I wanted to be competitive with Lando and Q3.

“It is still not perfect but I am happy with the progress. I cannot complain.”

And Ricciardo has set his sights on challenging Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly with his target to claim a top-five finish in the season-opening race on Sunday.

“I think the race pace we can be quite strong, and definitely challenge Charles and Gasly,” he added. “Our target will be the top five. I think if we start the season with the top five that would be awesome.

“But more importantly, my personal target is to keep finding that rhythm and confidence in the car. To put it in the top five tomorrow will be a nice start to the McLaren journey.”

 

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