Ricciardo has 'ambition' to get new team McLaren back on the podium

Paris (AFP) –


McLaren are aiming to "close the gap" to Mercedes when the new Formula One season begins with new driver Daniel Ricciardo looking to get back on the podium, the team announced at its 2021 presentation on Monday.

The Australian, 31, who has joined the outfit from Renault, will line up alongside 21-year-old Briton Lando Norris who scored a third-placed finish in last season's Austrian Grand Prix which helped McLaren to finish third in the constructors' championship.

"As I see it, most teams have a chance for a podium," said Ricciardo at the digital launch.

"Hopefully my experience and my motivation come out on top in whatever battle I am in. I certainly have ambition to be on the podium.

"McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I'm looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum."

Norris finished ninth in the 2020 drivers' championship but his preparations for the new season were hampered in January by a spell of quaratine in Dubai after testing positive for Covid-19.

"I felt drained, tired for a couple of weeks, but I am now fully recovered," he said. "I am altogether confident I can come into the season knowing what I really want."

- Mercedes engine -

McLaren, entering their 54th season in Formula One, finished last season well behind Mercedes, the seven-time defending champions for drivers' and constructors' championships, but hope that their new engines, supplied by Mercedes, will help them to fight for the titles.

"We are striving to close the gap to Mercedes who we anticipate will again be fastest," said McLaren CEO Zach Brown.

"Technical regulations remain stable so we expect to be the same as last year and even closer next year."

The switch from the Renault engines, which they used for three years, to Mercedes came in a bid to add to their 20 world championships -- 12 drivers' titles and eight constructors' championships.

"We wanted a championship winning engine," said team principal Andreas Seidl during a virtual press conference.

"The Mercedes power unit can help us win races again but we still have work to do as a team before we fight for race wins again."

Apart from the engine and new driver line-up, McLaren also unveiled the MCL35M, the team's 2021 race car, which is an "evolution" of the 2020 model and "benefits from aerodynamic and chassis developments" that the team implemented during the off-season.

The team said the new car would maintain the "iconic McLaren papaya orange and blue", first carried by the team in the 1960s with team founder, Bruce McLaren, at the wheel.