Ricciardo surprised by tough Bahrain race as McLaren confirm damage

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Daniel Ricciardo admits he expected his first race at McLaren to be much easier after finishing seventh in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Australian produced a brilliant lap in qualifying to secure sixth, just ahead of teammate Lando Norris, but ultimately finished just shy of 20 seconds and three positions behind the Briton on Sunday.

And given his lack of running with McLaren before the season opener, Ricciardo admits he expected the opposite scenario.

“From a whole, the weekend was positive,” he said via The Race. “I think it was solid and definitely for the team’s perspective, a nice haul of points.

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“I actually probably expected the race to be my easiest session of the weekend. Not taking it lightly, but I just thought with everything settled I would probably just progress the most through the race.

“But it was probably the opposite. I got more out of qualifying than the race. I just struggled to really keep the pace."

Asked why, Ricciardo explained: “I felt like if I lifted my level and pushed my lap times, I could hold it for one or two laps, then it would quickly drop off.

“I struggled a bit to really manage the tyres and keep all that sensible.

“Certainly there are some things I felt in the car that need improving, but I’m sure as well, I probably don’t have a set-up yet that I’m really sure of, or love.

“Definitely not discouraged just still definitely some work to do, that’s just going to take time. If a weak race for me was seventh, I think we’re doing alright. Obviously, Lando did a strong race in fourth.”

A potential reason later emerged as McLaren revealed Ricciardo lost a "considerable amount" of rear downforce due to damage to his floor after light contact with Pierre Gasly in the early laps.

“I had no idea,” Daniel admitted. “If my floor looks destroyed, then I’ll probably sleep better tonight!"

Before the season, McLaren had hoped to reach a place with Ricciardo where Bahrain didn't feel like his first weekend with the team.

And based on the 31-year-old's past experience, it appears that goal was largely succeeded.

“I remember with Renault two years ago, this (Bahrain) was race two - and I was leaving pretty down still after race two. It did take time. I certainly feel much better right now," he said.

“I feel like there’s for sure still things to learn. But I’m certainly much closer to where I need to be. It’s just going to take time ... but Imola’s next. I like that place and we’ll go fast.”