Daniel Ricciardo fans have been served a minor reality check as the Formula 1 pre-season testing event in Bahrain ended with more questions that answers.
The Aussie star was fastest on the opening day of the testing weekend ahead of the Formula 1 season-opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.
He was also fastest in the first session on day two before ultimately setting the ninth fastest time on the second day.
With the dust now settling on the three days of tinkering, McLaren has done enough to impress F1 commentators.
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With unstoppable champions Mercedes struggling during the event, there is also hope for a slightly more even 2021 world championship battle.
How close the pack is to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton remains to be seen.
The final day of testing on Monday morning was the time most teams finally showed what they really had with many going on lightning runs on ultra-soft compound tyres instead of simply getting laps under their belts.
The final day saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen top the time sheets followed by Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
McLaren’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo drives during the third day of the F1 pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.Source:AFP
McLaren’s ability to consistently feature in the top half of the time sheets in every session showed the team is ready to take the fight to leaders Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in 2021.
Ricciardo finished the weekend with the No. 7 fastest time, set on the final day while running the fourth softest compound Pirelli tyre.
The 31-year-old was almost half a second quicker than teammate Lando Norris, but was more than a second slower than Verstappen.
The majority of the teams ahead of Ricciardo were running the softest tyre available when they set their quickest times.
Former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean was among the commentators to be impressed by what he saw from McLaren this weekend.
“Red Bull looks strong. Mercedes will be there for Race 1. Alpha Tauri may be a good surprise. McLaren and Aston pretty good,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Ferrari with Alpine? Many questions, answers during the first quali of the season as usual.”
Pirelli’s official Twitter account was also impressed after seeing Ricciardo lead the time sheets early on the final day.
Daniel Ricciardo had pace on teammate Lando Norris. Photo: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Quickest of the afternoon runners so far is @danielricciardo @McLarenF1,” the tweet said.
“The team has been very impressive so far with a redesigned car to accommodate its new
@MercedesAMG power unit: can it return to the top of the overall time-sheets?”
The McLaren cars caught they eye of F1 pundits this weekend after being spotted with a different diffuser to the one being used by rival teams.
The team’s so-called “clever” diffuser loop-hole follows a change in regulations from the 2020 season.
Ricciardo said before the final day that the team had ticked all the boxes it wanted.
“It’s certainly handling itself pretty well at the moment,” Ricciardo said of his new car.
“I think not to dodge the question, but I need to get one of these evening sessions under my belt because, even though we’ve been quick on the timesheets, in the day sessions, the track is 40 degrees.
“It’s not that representative of what I’m used to around here, so naturally the car is sliding and moving around so it doesn’t feel electrifying. But relative to the track, we’re obviously doing OK.
“So yeah, I think, 24 hours’ time, I’ll probably have a better understanding of really how well balanced it is. But I think both days you know, with a 180-degree wind direction change, we’ve been pretty solid so there’s certainly more positives than not at the moment.”
Third and final day times:
1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 1:28.960 (64 laps)
2. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:29.053 (91)
3. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) 1:29.611 (79)
4. Kimi Raikkonen (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:29.766 (166)
5. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:30.025 (54)
6. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:30.117 (158)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:30.144 (76)
8. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 1:30.187 (49)
9. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1:30.318 (128)
10. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:30.486 (80)
11. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:30.661 (56)
12. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:30.828 (76)
13. Esteban Ocon (FRA-Alpine/Renault) 1:31.310 (61)
14. Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) 1:31.531 (67)
15. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:32.053 (78)
16. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:32.406 (86)
17. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:35.041 (56)
18. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:36.100 (80)
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