McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says that he hopes to make new driver Daniel Ricciardo feel like he’s been at Woking for years right from the start.
“We have a clear plan in place of how to integrate him in the best possible way,” Seidl told The Race website. “The objective is to be like Daniel has driven a McLaren and has worked with his engineers a long time.
“The target is to make sure he feels at home with us as quickly as possible, then looking forward to perform together from the first race onwards.”
Ricciardo is moving from Renault to take over from Carlos Sainz, who has signed a two-year contract with Ferrari. It means that this year the Australian will be racing alongside Lando Norris, who already had a long established history at McLaren.
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“Having a new driver on board is always a very interesting challenge,” Seidl explained. “It’s a combination of a very methodical approach and competence.”
While Ricciardo will be able to take advantage of McLaren’s state-of-the-art simulators, actual on-track experience in the new MCL35M will be limited to splitting three days of pre-season testing in the car with Norris.
“There won’t be a lot of time to test on track, less than any other time, which increases the challenge,” Seidl acknowledged.
“If I had to rank the impacts of a shorter winter testing, the biggest impact is on a driver,” he continued. “He won’t have driven the car for such a long time and there’s quite a lot to learn.
Just as important will be getting to know all the team personnel and the way that McLaren works as a whole. The current situation with coronavirus will make that harder to.
“We have a clear plan in place of how to integrate him in the best possible way,” Seidl said. “The main focus is on integration on the technical side, on the racing side.
“But in parallel to that, we have as a programme in place to integrate him as a team member on the communication side, the marketing side and the business side. That will start flat out from the beginning of January.
“There’s not a lot of time,” he added. “It will involve a lot of sessions, both online, but at the same time also with a lot of presence at the MTC.”
Ricciardo will find at least one familiar face at the McLaren Technology Centre, where he will be reunited with technical director James Key. The pair first worked together at Toro Rosso in 2012.
“He’s won races and put himself amongst that [top] category of drivers,” noted Key. “What he will bring to us is this really good reference point.
“He was great at Toro Rosso because he was already technically very savvy and had exactly the same approach as you see now.
“But since then, he’s experienced an awful lot more. As a reference point for us, it’s going to be really interesting.
“He’s coming from a competitor and a good team in Red Bull before then, which will give him some ideas and reference points that will be good input for us as well.
“I’m looking forward to working with him on that basis,” Key added.
It’s not just Ricciardo with a lot of work ahead of him. The entire team has a long to-do list in the new year after significant revisions to the car made necessary by the switch from Renault to Mercedes power units for 2021.
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