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Daniel Ricciardo crashes, exposed by teammate on McLaren debut

At least he wasn’t in a Renault.

At least he wasn’t in a Renault.

Daniel Ricciardo made a solid if not spectacular debut for McLaren at the Bahrain GP early Monday morning (AEDT), finishing seventh behind winner Lewis Hamilton, who held on for victory after Max Verstappen was forced to hand over the lead in the final laps.

In a thrilling race which started in chaotic fashion after Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin crashed out on turn three, Ricciardo was passed by teammate Lando Norris before the first lap was finished.

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He was also involved in a collision on lap five which left AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly without his front wing.

The Aussie recovered to stay in the points but will leave the race knowing he has plenty of work to do after Norris’ impressive fourth-placed finish.

The British 21-year-old didn’t put a foot wrong to trail only Hamilton, Verstappen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fifth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc but Ricciardo ensured McLaren made a positive start in its attempt to repeat last year’s third-placed finish in the constructors championship by securing six points.

“I would have loved to have been in the battle for the win. Jenson (Button) was filling me in – it sounded like it was pretty good! I would have been more satisfied with that,” Ricciardo said post-race.

“But I think the weekend as a whole, pretty satisfied. The race itself I struggled with pace. I wouldn’t say it was a strong race by any means but plenty to work on and learn from.

“Definitely not discouraged just still definitely some work to do.”

Asked about his close first-lap battle with Norris, he said: “I actually forgot about that. It was good fun. I think he was about half a car in front when the safety car came out so he obviously got me there.”

He added: “As the race went on I felt like I was just falling back and back and just struggled to push on the tyre and keep it (at optimum temperature). I felt like I’ll just cook it.

“I’m sure there’s still some finessing that I can do with the car, and just learn probably what sweet spot I’m after in the set-up.”

The Aussie will also be thrilled with his decision to leave Renault after the newly-named Alpine F1 Team had a debut to forget.

Estaban Ocon, Ricciardo’s teammate from last season, finished 13th but veteran signing Fernando Alonso failed to finish.

“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,” Ricciardo 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.”

Ricciardo had been buoyed after qualifying in sixth place, one position ahead of Norris.

“I mean it’s a nice tick in the box, you can’t deny that,” Ricciardo said.

“But honestly as much as I want be the fastest guy in the team, I really didn’t let’s say put pressure on me beating Lando today.

“Obviously to do it’s a nice bit of a confidence booster for myself, but all I wanted to do was I guess get closer and closer, and keep kind of making progress within myself.

“And I think through quali I really started, not every corner, but I started to find the limit of the car in some places, so for that I feel I made a nice step. I think the leaderboard is probably the little cherry on the top, but I think internally I have a lot more satisfaction with what I was able to find in the car.”

He now has three weeks to find the extra comfort needed to perform better on race day ahead of the Emiliano Romagna Grand Prix in Italy.

Bahrain GP finishing order

1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1hr 32mins 03.897sec

2. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) at 0.745s

3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 37.383

4. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 46.466

5.Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 52.047

6. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 59.090

7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:06.004

8. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:07.100

9. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:25.692

10. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:26.713

11. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:28.864

12. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1 lap

13. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1 lap

14. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap

15. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1 lap

16. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1 lap

17. Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda) 4 laps

18. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 4 laps

DNF: Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault), Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda), Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams)

Fastest lap: Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:32.090

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