F1 news, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren

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He wasn’t able to clinch a coveted podium finish, but Daniel Ricciardo can take plenty of positives from the 2021 French Grand Prix.

The Australian expertly wove his way through the field during the middle portion of Sunday’s race to finish in sixth — one spot behind McLaren teammate Lando Norris.

A strategic masterstroke from the McLaren boffins also helped Ricciardo overtake a pair of rivals on Lap 17.

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It’s been a relatively frustrating season for Ricciardo, but the 31-year-old was more than pleased with his performance at Circuit Paul Ricard.

“It was a fun race,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports.

“Typically, it’s not always a track that allows us to fight that hard, so I was pleasantly surprised that it was a good race all through the field today.

“First stint was really strong … there’s certainly still some things to improve on, but for the most part, definitely a productive weekend.

“In the first stint, everyone was suffering a bit, but we were suffering a little less.”

Ricciardo subsequently moves up to ninth on the 2021 Drivers’ Standings, while McLaren overtakes third-placed Ferrari on the Constructor Standings.

How Ricciardo’s race panned out

Starting at 10th on the grid, Ricciardo quickly passed McLaren teammate Lando Norris on the opening lap to slide up into ninth.

The McLaren pair were embroiled in a skirmish on the second lap, which saw Norris briefly drive off the track.

The young Brit was overheard complaining about Ricciardo on the team radio soon after, as revealed by Sky Sports analyst Ted Kravitz.

“The McLaren drivers are not making it easy for each other,” Kravitz said.

“Lando Norris, having gone off, sort of complaining a little bit on the radio about Daniel Ricciardo, telling them, ‘He’s pushing me wide, not giving me enough space’.”

Ricciardo slowly closed in on Spanish great Fernando Alonso, who was complaining about his tyres on the team radio, and the Australian completed the overtake on Lap 11.

Now racing in eighth place, Ricciardo chased Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and passed him comfortably on Lap 15.

“Let’s f***ing go!” Ricciardo cried as he charged towards his next target — AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

But McLaren opted for a bold team strategy on Lap 17, telling Ricciardo: “Box to overtake Gasly.”

And the plan worked wonders for Ricciardo.

Although the Perth driver emerged from the pits in 17th, he ultimately managed to undercut Gasly and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

“That’s worked a treat for Daniel Ricciardo,” commentator Martin Brundle said on Sky Sports.

When Alonso and Williams driver Nicolas Latiffi pitted on Lap 19, Ricciardo suddenly found himself up in 12th place.

What followed was a classy period of driving from the Australian, flawlessly overtaking a series of rivals on the fresher tyres.

He passed former F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen on Lap 23 and slid up to 10th place when Norris pitted soon after.

Ricciardo overtook Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi on Lap 26 before zooming past former teammate Esteban Ocon to move up into eighth the following lap.

And then in Lap 28, Ricciardo once again passed Leclerc to crack into the top seven.

“He’s having a storming race, it’s got to be said,” commentator David Croft told Sky Sports.

Norris was also barging his way through the field, and Ricciardo allowed his teammate on the fresher tyres to pass him on Lap 34.

But when Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll pitted on Lap 35, the Aussie moved back up to seventh place.

The two McLaren drivers soon found themselves in fifth and sixth when four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel pitted on Lap 38.

Ricciardo then had to maintain his position for the remainder of the French Grand Prix on deteriorating tyres, with Gasly slowly closing the gap from behind.

Although his pace was dropping off, Ricciardo managed to hold off Gasly and finish the race in sixth place — his equal best finish of the 2021 season to date.

READ MORE: Ricciardo reveals ‘weird as f***’ romance

If the race had been a couple of laps longer, Gasly would have almost certainly overtaken the Australian.

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen showed his class at Circuit Paul Ricard by overtaking seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap to clinch his third victory of the season.

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