McLaren’s performance in 2021 will hinge on how well Daniel Ricciardo gels with new teammate Lando Norris, the Aussie’s new boss hoping a strong working relationship between the pair will lead to a productive season.
Teammates in F1 are often each other’s biggest rivals but McLaren racing director Andrea Stella wants Ricciardo and Norris to work together and share their “box of secrets” to maximise the chances of team success.
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McLaren was third in this year’s constructors’ championship behind Red Bull and champions Mercedes and will face a tough fight to maintain its status as the midfield leader — or better, in the case of beating Ferrari.
Ricciardo and Norris get on extremely well and have been responsible for some hilarious interactions off the track but whether that relationship continues to run smoothly when they’re both fighting for points in the same car remains to be seen.
Ricciardo is leaving Renault after two years to join McLaren in 2021 and Stella is hoping for the perfect double act — one which builds on the foundations that allowed Norris and departing McLaren star Carlos Sainz to function so well during their time together.
“Carlos and Lando have been excellent this year,” Stella said in a Q&A on the McLaren website. “The level of collaboration between the two of them has been incredibly high.
“It’s one of the reasons they are so evenly matched on track. When there is an open and transparent dialogue between teammates, it elevates their performance because they can crosscheck with each other and quickly identify the weak points of the car or find the best approach to a corner.
“This has been possible due to the personal qualities of Carlos and Lando, and, I hope, the environment we have built within the team which encourages openness and trust.
“It means the drivers feel comfortable opening their box of secrets, rather than keeping that box closed so as not to give away any advantage to their teammate.”
Are you taking notes, Dan?
“The most important thing from my point of view is that we preserve the conditions that we created to allow that high level of collaboration between Carlos and Lando,” Stella said of Ricciardo’s arrival.
“But it’s not just about preserving those conditions, we may have to adapt them. Daniel is not Carlos and his relationship with Lando will be different. It may be similar, but it will not be the same and we need to be mindful of that and adapt with a view to maintain the standards.”
McLaren technical director James Key has worked with Ricciardo in the past at Toro Rosso and is confident the West Australian will be a valuable addition to the team.
“He arrives as a proven race winner and is someone who can go toe to toe with the very best drivers,” Key said.
“Daniel is very easy to get on with, but he’s hugely determined and that has a positive effect on any team.
“He will be a great reference point for us and, together with Lando, we will have one of the strongest driver pairings in the paddock.”
Ricciardo finished fifth in this year’s drivers’ standings, one spot ahead of Sainz, who is joining Ferrari in 2021 in place of Sebastian Vettel. Norris was ninth.