Upgrades to the McLaren MCL36 over the past two Formula 1 grands prix have given Daniel Ricciardo a better feel for the car, he says.
A significant package was bolted on in Paul Ricard last weekend with parts that signaled a change in direction for the design philosophy.
Complementing that are further parts in Hungary, the diffuser being the most significant of its more modest list of developments.
McLaren has seen an upturn in competitiveness this weekend, with Lando Norris fourth in qualifying while both he and Ricciardo featured constantly in the top 10 throughout practice.
Ricciardo will start Sunday’s race from ninth, his Qualifying 3 time six tenths down on his team-mate – and two tenths slower than he managed in Qualifying 2.
Even still, the Australian is upbeat as he suggests he’s beginning to get the feel he’s looking for.
“I definitely feel a bit better with the car,” the 33-year-old said.
“Q3 I wasn’t happy with, so I’m still unfortunately looking for a good lap in quali, just put it all together.
“But actually I felt like the session, Q1 and [Q]2 wasn’t too bad, I felt like we were in a decent spot to give a good run in Q3.
“Then, yeah, we just lost a little bit through that lap progressively, really from the start.
“So still not a lap where I’m stoked, but I think there is… certainly this weekend has been a weekend where we felt pretty good with the car.
“We’ve kind of, certainly, hit the ground running and we’ve been like a top 10 car all weekend – a solid top 10 car.
“So for that, obviously ninth is not where I want to be, but certainly being able to lean on the car more, push, and kind of be more on top of it, I think that’s consistently been a bit better this weekend.
“Obviously Q3, when you put everything into it, I still didn’t quite get it together.
“I want to say like unfortunately still some stuff to sort out and work on, but there is like surface stuff, but I think below the surface there is some good things, and positives.
While Norris starts towards the front, realistically McLaren is racing Alpine and not the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull – even though both Milton Keynes cars start behind the papaya pairing.
Knowing that, it’s a case of picking the right battles in the race rather than losing time by fighting battles they’ll almost certainly lose.
“I don’t think there’ll be many chances to go forward,” Norris confessed.
“Everyone ahead of me is much quicker. [Max] Verstappen behind me, considering George [Russell] was four tenths ahead of me, Lewis [Hamilton] is driving the same car so he should be a lot quicker tomorrow.
“Verstappen and [Sergio] Perez are much quicker cars, so it’ll be a tough race.”
Team boss Andreas Seidl added: “I wouldn’t say we necessarily just focus on the Alpines.
“The most important thing, first and foremost, [is] to do our own race, to execute a clean race, [with] clean strategy, clean pit stops, and see the checked flag.
“Of course, it will be important because that’s our main competitor for this P4, to stay ahead of the Alpine cars.
“Hopefully also Daniel will be in a position to maybe pick up one or the other position, maybe in the first lap, also later in the race – it’s not clear at the moment what the strategies will look like here.
“Probably this opens further opportunities and then target is clear; score more points.”
The Hungarian Grand Prix begins at 23:0o AEST tonight.