Ricciardo scored McLaren’s first victory in almost nine years by winning the Italian Grand Prix in Monza last month, leading home team-mate Lando Norris 1-2.
Norris himself was close to winning the following race in Sochi two weeks ago, only for a late rainstorm to end his hopes of not switching to intermediate tires at the right time.
The recovery in the form of McLaren has helped his push to third place in the constructors’ championship against Ferrari and given hope for a more open match at the helm after a period of Red Bull and Mercedes dominance.
The team has regularly downgraded its chances of being a consistent threat in the battle at the front, and Ricciardo felt that even though it had occasionally come into the mix this year, its best form was still largely track-dependent.
“It simply came to our notice then [fighting Mercedes and Red Bull] certainly more often in the last few weeks, ”Ricciardo said.
“I think Lando has been there most of the year, and it’s starting to look more promising for me, too.
“But look at Lando’s race [in Sochi], that part of the dry was very strong and struggled there.
“I think it’s still a bit track dependent for us as a team. I do not think we are universally strong across the board, at every track layout we go to.
“The ones we are strong on seem like we can really take it to the top two teams.”
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
McLaren team manager Andreas Seidl said he largely agreed with Ricciardo’s assessment and that the team remained realistic about its current status in the F1 pick order, focusing on beating Ferrari to third place in the constructors’ championship.
“I think with the image we’ve seen so far this year, yes, I agree that it will be track-specific,” Seidl said.
“We have occasionally seen this year that we were able to fight even for pole positions or keep faster cars behind us on certain tracks.
“At the same time, I think that with the development of the car during the season, plus a better understanding of the team and how to get even more performance out of the package we have, I think we have taken steps in the form of car performance on all kinds of courses, as we have seen in Hungary, for example.
“But I think we have a realistic view of where we are right now. At least at Ferraris we have everything in our hands to keep them behind us.
“At the same time, when there are opportunities to score podium results, we will be there.”