After a rough patch, McLaren worked its way back up the grid under team boss Seidl and technical director James Key. Drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz proved to be a competitive pairing, ultimately handing McLaren third place in the 2020 championship.
With Sainz leaving McLaren to join Ferrari, the Woking team moved quickly to snap up Ricciardo from Renault as his replacement for 2021.
Ricciardo and Norris were closely matched in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, starting sixth and seventh on the grid respectively, before grabbing a combined 18 points for the team on Sunday, which meant McLaren vaulted back up to third in the constructors’ championship.
Seidl explained it was key to McLaren’s resurgence – and its fight against teams with intrinsically quicker cars – to have two drivers capable of fighting at the front of F1’s stacked midfield to secure a consistent haul of points. It is also the reason why the team took on Ricciardo.
“As you can imagine it was obviously important for me that when we made the decision to go for Daniel that we simply made sure for the team that we have again also from this year onwards, a very strong driver line-up,” Seidl explained after Bahrain qualifying.
“Because key in the last two years for securing these positions we could secure in the constructors’ championship was that we always had two drivers who were there and always ready to score good points.
“I’m really happy with what we have seen so far from both guys. It’s great that we again seem to have a very strong driver line-up. We managed to get through both cars [in] Q3, both guys always very close together.”
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
During the Bahrain race Ricciardo dropped from sixth to seventh with a damaged floor after being struck by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly on the opening lap.
Norris climbed from seventh to fourth in one of his best F1 drives so far, which according to Seidl was proof that the young Briton “has made the next step” as a driver.
Commenting on the performance of his team after F1’s season-opener, Seidl added that he was “very happy with what the team pulled off this weekend, because I think again the hard work everyone has put in over winter was paying off.”
Seidl was particularly encouraged to see Ricciardo and Norris get to within nine tenths of Max Verstappen’s pole time, a margin three tenths smaller than the team managed in qualifying for the 2020 race.
“The gap we had to pole position was smaller compared to what we could do last time we have been here in Bahrain, which is again an encouraging sign that we’re making a step as a team with the car towards the front and that we are heading in the right direction,” Seidl said.