But the Pirelli tyres generally don’t react well to the technique, don’t like being loaded up under braking and cornering simultaneously. Except if you’re Lando Norris. Ever since his F3 days he has loved a car with a lot of rotation on it, which will respond with very little steering lock, as he uses skilful and subtle manipulation of the car’s weight transfer to help it steer. During his time in F1, all of it at McLaren, he’s managed to prise open a window that allows him to do this even with the Pirellis. The McLaren has generally developed in that direction. Sainz joined the team after Norris had already been testing extensively there and was taken aback at how different the car was both to the Toro Rosso and the Renault he’d previously driven.
But Sainz is, above all, very adaptable. Possibly it’s in the genes, possibly in the improvisational skills regular driving of rally cars on gravel at home has given him (he and father Carlos Sr still play at this). “From what I’ve seen so far,” says Norris, “Daniel wants a car that really suits him, maybe a little bit more than Carlos. Carlos was good at driving a car which wasn’t always that nice to drive; he was very good at that.
“Daniel’s very, very fast when he has the car around him and when everything’s suited. But as soon as there’s a couple of problems, I think just as most drivers do, as soon as you lose that bit of confidence, then you just struggle a little bit more.
“I don’t think that’s just with him, that’s just something that some drivers have more than others – it is a confidence thing.”
Ricciardo’s muscle memory is just not yet attuned to the very singular traits of the McLaren, as developed over the years around Norris. The problem’s not so bad on fast, flowing corners – at Barcelona he was generally fine – but anything involving a lot of weight transfer into slow corners and what he’s automatically attuned to doing isn’t what this car wants. “At the moment the car’s not coming to me,” he related in that Monaco interview. “There is a characteristic with this car which is a bit strange. There’s a window you can play inside and be fairly ok but at the moment it’s a very small window and very easy to make mistakes or do something that the car doesn’t respond to. It’s tricky.”
The shortfall in technique will be especially exaggerated on new tyres (so, in qualifying). If the rotation is not maximised you will not get the full benefit of the extra grip. You’ll get a big chunk of it, but not that maximum longitudinal and lateral combination – and the exit will be delayed as a result. All of it bleeding away lap time. Chunks of it at each entry phase.