Having switched teams over the winter, the Australian is among the drivers playing catch up to try and get fully comfortable with their new cars heading into the third round of the 2021 F1 season after just one-and-a-half days of pre-season testing.
Ricciardo was convincingly outperformed by McLaren teammate Lando Norris in Bahrain and Imola but appeared to make some progress during Friday practice for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix as he ended FP2 in P8 and within six-tenths of Lewis Hamilton’s benchmark.
“It was a better day personally for me,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports after second practice.
“I just felt like I got on with it from the start of FP1. I think the feeling, or the signs of what I felt today, are what I hope to be inevitable and it will come over time.
“But certainly I felt like today I took a step forward in terms of my confidence in the car and my ability to just hang it out a little bit more.”
Ricciardo revealed the key to making his step forward came from spending time in the simulator before heading to Portimao in a bid to refine his driving style and help him unlock some more performance.
“The car, at least the tendency rewards a bit of a different technique and a bit of a different style and that’s from turning in to the way you use the brake and then get back on throttle,” he explained.
“It’s a little unique, so I’ve been working on that in the simulator and tried to put that into display today. I think that was coming and naturally just getting more confidence with the way the car slides.”
Ricciardo reckons he will be able to make further gains once McLaren introduces updates to help improve the car’s characteristics and bring it more in line with his natural style.
“I think the general characteristics of the car are, let’s say, what they are at the moment,” he said. “At some corners, I can for sure use my style, but for the majority the best way to drive it is a different style.
“I’m trying to let the guys know where the weaknesses are and how I’d like to drive the car, so we’re trying to bring some updates to address that. But until then, I’ll just learn how to drive it how it is.”
Ricciardo admitted he has been frustrated by the time it has taken him to get comfortable with McLaren’s MCL35M challenger but was reassured by team bosses Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl at Imola that a breakthrough will come sooner rather than later.
“It’s hard to take because I’m sort of a veteran now so why should it take time,” he conceded. “I’m experienced coming into this team and everyone is kind of treating me like a rookie, which kind of is true because I’m a rookie with this car and this environment.
“After Imola I was upset that I couldn’t do better and get more, but Andreas and Zak, they are all just like ‘chill dude, it’s going to come’. I won’t chill too much, but I know that it’ll come eventually.”