Ricciardo jumped ship from Renault to McLaren during the off-season, hoping to do better than the two podiums he achieved in two years with the Enstone team.
After not being able to finish in the top three in his first season with Renault, Ricciardo got team boss Cyril Abiteboul to agree on getting a tattoo on his ankle after Ricciardo’s first podium, a bet he happily lost at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.
At his new team McLaren, Ricciardo said team boss Andreas Seidl was safe from getting inked, but CEO Brown, who owns a vast collection of historic race cars, made Ricciardo an offer he couldn’t refuse.
During McLaren’s behind-the-scenes Unboxed video at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Brown promised Ricciardo, who is a big fan of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and races with the NASCAR legend’s number 3, a ride in Earnhardt’s 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Brown handed a delighted Ricciardo a scale model of the Wrangler liveried car “as a signing on bonus, but I’m thinking your first podium you give the real thing a go.”
Feeling bad about P7 is a good sign
Given McLaren’s promising early form with the MCL35M, a podium does seem on the cards for Ricciardo and teammate Lando Norris after the pair finished seventh and fourth in Bahrain.
Ricciardo was passed at the start by Norris and was then unable to match the Briton’s pace, partly explained by the floor damage he sustained in a clash with Pierre Gasly, which the team said “cost a considerable amount of downforce“.
After the race Ricciardo said that, despite his then undiagnosed lack of race pace, he was happy with the way his first weekend with McLaren went.
“I think we’ve certainly started on a good note as a team and I feel comfortable”, Ricciardo said. “If I’m seventh today feeling like I didn’t have a good race, then I think it’s only a sign of things to come.
“I think from a whole the weekend was positive I think it was solid and definitely from a team’s perspective a nice haul of points.”
Ricciardo said he felt in a better place after his McLaren debut than he did two years ago after his first race for Renault.
“I probably don’t have a setup yet that I’m really sure of or love so that’s just going to take time”, he explained. “I do feel better than two years ago as far as where I was after the first few races with Renault.
“I feel like I’m certainly a step ahead of the game now but still not where I want to be.”
Additional reporting by Adam Cooper