MANAMA (Reuters) – McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo failed to make it through the first phase of qualifying for the season-opening Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday after missing testing last week due to COVID-19.
The Australian, who was released from isolation on Thursday, qualified only 18th in the session at the Sakhir circuit ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.
“I think we just saw the result of everything that happened in the last seven, eight days,” team boss Andreas Seidl told Sky Sports television.
“I think he was on the back foot from the beginning going into this weekend with missing out on the test last week, then he lost additional laps yesterday with the water leak that we had and therefore it was always a difficult challenge for him today.
“In addition, we just struggled really all weekend so far here with the pace of the car. I think also that’s a result from all the fire-fighting we’ve had to do in the seven or eight days.
“We simply have to accept it and move on.”
Ricciardo said he had felt comfortable with the car after testing in Barcelona, where McLaren looked quick, but Bahrain had been more of a challenge.
“It’s been a bit of an uphill battle … not too surprised but we’ve just got to try and move up from here,” he said.
Team mate Lando Norris, who suffered brake problems in testing last week, qualified 13th.
The Briton said the difference between Barcelona and Bahrain was mostly down to the track characteristics.
“Barcelona is more biased towards medium and high speed and here is more biased towards slower speed corners and that’s where we’re struggling a lot,” he said.
“There’s more weaknesses here for us and we’re already learning where those strengths and weaknesses are.”
Seidl said the competition, in Formula One’s new era with a major rules revamp, was unbelievably tight but hoped McLaren could still score points on Sunday.
The Woking-based team finished fourth last season, with Ricciardo leading a one-two at the Italian Grand Prix for McLaren’s first win since 2012.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Clare Fallon)