Less than a month after breaking a three-year drought as he won the Italian Grand Prix, Ricciardo plummeted to his second-lowest finish of the 2021 world championship, taking 13th after starting last due to a change of power unit.
The wet conditions at Istanbul Park saw all but two of the drivers – Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel – use the same strategy, sticking with intermediates for the entirety of the race and pitting once.
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Ricciardo lamented his lack of quick laps and attributed his struggles to troublesome tyres.
“I think we had maybe four laps in the race where we had good pace, but the rest was hard,” Ricciardo said.
“In the beginning we struggled a lot with front grip, so it was really hard to stay close to the others, and then we pitted for a new tyre.”
Ricciardo was the first to box when he headed to the pits on lap 22, sitting 16th.
And while he closed to within a second of the points, challenging Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll for 10th, he was overtaken late by Alfa Romeo pair Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen, knocking him down to his 13th-placed finish.
“After (the tyre change) I didn’t have great rear grip to start and was struggling, but after a while it came good,” Ricciardo said.
“We had probably four good laps in that stint where I could feel like I could really push on the tyre, which was what I was looking for. Of the entire race, that was the positive.
“I got a bit excited because I thought maybe it will just keep getting better and better, but it lasted four laps and then the rear dropped away again, so the last 10 laps were a bit painful, just trying to hang on.”
Ocon was the only driver to complete the race without stopping, becoming the first to do so since Finland’s Mika Salo in his Tyrell car at Monaco in 1997.
Vettel, on the contrary, was the only driver to experiment with slicks.
But the four-time world champion lasted just one lap on mediums, returning to intermediates on lap 39 after failing to control his car in the wet conditions.
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“Obviously, we were fighting for the points and that strategy was our best chance, but it was just really unpredictable,” Ricciardo said of the decision to stick with intermediates and pit once.
“I know others went longer, with one going the entire race on one set, but at the end I saw my tyres and they were on their last legs.”
Ricciardo’s teammate, 21-year-old Briton Lando Norris, finished seventh.
The youngster had perform superbly at the Russian Grand Prix just a fortnight earlier, collecting pole and leading the race until spinning out on slicks late, dropping to a seventh-placed finish.
Team principal Andreas Seidl pointed out that McLaren’s car wasn’t suited to circuits like Turkey’s Istanbul Park due to long corners.
“As we have seen already several times this year, like in Zandvoort (at the Dutch Grand Prix), we struggle on these kind of tracks at the moment,” Seidl said.
“That’s also the difference we are having on our side compared to the teams in front of us that can pull it off at every kind of racetrack.”
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