Missed in Daniel Ricciardo’s French Grand Prix drive was the most clear sign yet that he has finally found his feet at McLaren.
The Aussie drove at his aggressive best after starting 10th on the grid to finish sixth, giving Mclaren a successful day the office with Lando Norris finishing fifth.
On the surface, it is easy for Formula 1 pundits to chalk Monday morning’s race up as another day when Norris bested his teammate.
But Formula 1 great Jolyon Palmer has spotted the reason Ricciardo’s drive at the Circuit Paul Ricard was his best yet.
The former driver has said in a column written for F1.com, Ricciardo could have easily finished ahead of Norris if not for circumstances beyond his control.
Ricciardo equalled his best finish for the season and admiited after the race it was a big step forward.
“I never left,” Ricciardo said.
“Just moved aside for a little while. It was fun, certainly some old skills coming back, a bit of racing, a bit of talking smack on the radio, elbows out.
“So yeah, starting to get a bit more comfortable in the car, a bit of confidence in racing situations, so it was good fun.”
Palmer agrees, declaring the drive was Ricciardo’s most complete performance this year.
The 31-year-old overtook Norris on the second lap, but their fortunes changed during their only pit stops of the race.
Norris stayed out for eight laps longer in the first stint, giving him fresher tyres at the end of the race.
Palmer says Ricciardo ended up having a tougher race than his teammate because of the pit stop strategy which saw him being held up by cars in front while Norris was able to race in clean air early in his second stint. He ended up finishing 10 seconds clear of Ricciardo after the Aussie let him through near the end because the British driver was running on fresher, quicker tyres.
“This was a race where Ricciardo was closer to his best again,” Palmer wrote in his column.
“He seemed to have confidence in the car, and we were getting the old Ricciardo radio messages indicating he was right up for the fight.
“Ironically, because he was the first McLaren in the opening stint, he ended up having arguably the tougher race, doing more overtaking early on as Norris followed him past Fernando Alonso, and Leclerc pitted before Norris had to overtake him.