McLaren Discover a Cracked Chassis is the Cause of Daniel Ricciardo’s Retirement From Sao Paulo Grand Prix

McLaren had a tough weekend in Brazil with the team losing ground to Ferrari in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship standings after Daniel Ricciardo failed to finish the Grand Prix. 

Starting from 11th on the grid, Ricciardo needed to race hard to get into the points and catch the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. The Australian’s teammate, Lando Norris, started the race in the fifth position, splitting the Ferrari pair on the grid.

McLaren felt that Ricciardo had the pace and strategy to catch the two Ferraris, but an issue with the car changed the outcome of his race.

A crack in the McLaren’s chassis revealed as the cause of the retirement

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil on November 14, 2021 | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo’s race started well and ran as high as fourth place. The McLaren star noticed a drop in power from the car, and while he and his engineer tried everything they could to salvage their race, Ricciardo had to retire on lap 51.

Initially suspected as a power unit (engine) failure, it was later discovered that a crack in the chassis was the ultimate cause of the retirement. 

McLaren’s team principal, Andreas Seidl, had this to say after the race, per Motorsport, “We had a power loss on track. In the initial investigation, we found a technical issue, a crack on the chassis side of the power unit installation, which we need to now investigate. I can give you a better update next week in Qatar.”

A crack in the chassis where the power unit mounts is a serious problem. A power unit bolts to the chassis with four to six mounting bolts. If one of the mounting locations fails, the power unit can move and flex in ways for which it is not designed. That movement can compromise its performance, mimicking an engine failure. 

The power unit comprises the rear section of a Formula 1 car, with the transmission, rear suspension, and rear wing combined into an assembly that attaches to the front half of the car, in which the driver sits. If the power unit were to break free from its mountings, the entire back half of the racecar could separate. 

Daniel Ricciardo thinks he could have beaten Ferrari in Brazil

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico on November 05, 2021 | Lars Baron/Getty Images

If Ricciardo had not run into trouble on the track, he could have had a chance to catch and beat the two Ferraris in a battle of race strategies. 

“We knew they [Ferrari] had to two-stop. I think they had a bit more pace, but maybe through strategy, we could’ve disrupted them,” said Ricciardo after the race. 

He went on to say, “But then we had a loss of power and had to retire the car. Definitely a shame, but it was a much more promising day than Saturday. We’ll take the positives from that, and we’ve got another chance next week.”

The chassis failure on Ricciardo’s McLaren added to a frustrating weekend for the British team.

Teammate Lando Norris ran into trouble at the start of the race, picking up a tire puncture after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr. That incident put Norris into the pits and required a recovery drive to salvage the weekend. Norris would finish the race in 10th place, picking up one point toward the battle for third in the championship against Ferrari.

McLaren now finds itself 31.5 points behind Ferrari with three races remaining in the season.

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