Daniel Ricciardo's 2022 Formula 1® campaign got off to a rough start under desert skies in Bahrain, the Australian finishing 14th in what was a wretched first race of the season overall for McLaren.
The die was cast for Ricciardo when he couldn't get out of Q1 on Saturday, a COVID-compromised build-up and McLaren's brake issues from pre-season testing conspiring to leave him mired in 18th on the grid, his lowest starting position in 12 races at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Whatever progress he could make was likely to come down to the first lap, but an incident ahead of him as the field plunged down the hill wrong-footed his early charge, Alpine's Esteban Ocon skittling Mick Schumacher in the middle of the pack and causing the rest of the field to take evasive action to avoid the German's spinning Haas.
"The start, it's a bit of a blur when it happens straight away but I remember in Turn 6-7, the chicane, I saw some smoke and then I saw (teammate) Lando (Norris) go left and cut off the track, so my initial instinct was to follow him because I thought maybe a car had spun in the middle of the track," Ricciardo explained.
"I did that, then I remember two or three cars passing me when I took avoiding action. It lost me positions, but I don’t know if I could have done anything better at the time, or at least I didn't feel like it was safe to do so."
From there, Ricciardo needed attrition or a smattering of luck to make it into the points, and neither was forthcoming over the remaining 56 laps. Neither Ricciardo nor Norris spent a single lap inside the top 10 points-paying positions, Ricciardo finishing one place and 1.4 seconds ahead of the Briton after 57 laps.
"We're not where we want to be, but we have to work, figure it out and try to improve as quick as possible," Ricciardo said.
"The race was tricky, I think there was a lot to understand. Some good things – some corners where I felt good on entry, under braking, but we're obviously comparing as well to the tail-end of the field, so maybe those strengths don't apply to the front-runners."
Ricciardo is next in action at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix next weekend, where he finished fifth on the race's debut in the world championship last December.