Daniel Ricciardo was once again shafted by his McLaren team on his way to another slowly finish at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Having started in seventh thanks to grid penalties handed out to a third of the grid for new parts, Ricciardo finished well out of the points in 15th.
His teammate Lando Norris was among a raft of drivers to be sent to the back of the grid with engine penalties, including eventual race winner Max Verstappen who surged from his P14 starting spot to take the lead on lap 12.
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Norris finished 12th having got past Ricciardo in the last round of pitstops via an undercut.
An undercut is when a trailing car pits first, and uses the new tire advantage to pass the leading car when they eventually make their own pitstop.
A common rule – albeit unwritten – up and down the grid is that the lead car within the team gets the preferred strategy and pits first. Internal undercutting is generally a no-no.
Ricciardo was locked in a fight for the final point against Alex Albon when he was told to do the opposite to the Williams driver at the end of lap 26 – Ricciardo was to pit if Albon didn’t, and stay out if he did.
When the Williams pulled in to the pits, the team left Ricciardo out until lap 32, but pitted Norris at the end of lap 29.
The delay meant Ricciardo emerged from the pits in 15th – ahead of only the two Haas’ of Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen, and the other Williams of Nicholas Latifi.
Post-race, Ricciardo said he had no chance to move forward once he was in traffic.
“I know I wasn’t the only one who struggled overtaking today, it looked like some cars were just so much quicker than others on the straight and that was it,” he said.
“In clear air, we certainly had a bit more speed but we just lost so much time being stuck behind cars and couldn’t really make anything happen.
“I think there was a lot of opportunities with the mixed grid but I appreciate Lando’s race didn’t seem that much better so maybe we just didn’t have the package.”
Following the confirmation of his departure from the Woking team, Ricciardo said he enjoyed being back in the car.
“It certainly hasn’t been the most fun weekend going through all this, but at the same time, it was nice to get back in the car and just try to put everything behind me and have a bit of fun.
“When all the red lights were going on today, I was smiling, and I was just happy to be in that moment again.
“I don’t think my start was that good, I think I still dropped down and it was a pretty terrible start, but there’s certainly some parts of it I enjoyed.
“But yeah, I’m glad that the bulk of this announcement is done and hopefully gets a bit more fun for the last eight (races).”
Ricciardo avoided the opening lap chaos – which included a clash between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at Les Combes – to be sixth at the end of the first lap.
He had dropped to 8th – passed by Verstappen and Albon – by the first stops, and would never be higher than that again during the race.
Even without the team’s strategy bungle, and taking into account the mixed grid, both McLarens effectively went backwards to finish at the back of the midfield.
Team principal Andreas Seidl blamed the hot conditions – with temperatures some 15 degrees warmer than at any other time over the weekend – for the team’s struggles.
“It’s been a tough Sunday for us – warmer conditions today contributed to a lack of pace which, in the end, resulted in us going backwards,” he said.
“It wasn’t possible for (Lando and Daniel) to score a better result.”
In the constructors championship, a double points finish for Alpine – Alonso finished fifth despite the lap one contact with Hamilton, while Esteban Ocon finished seventh – means McLaren now trails Alpine by 20 points.
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