Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault is finally paying dividends, with the French team in contention for a top-three spot in the F1 constructors’ standings.
After winning seven grands prix with Red Bull, Ricciardo made the bold decision to switch teams in 2018, signing with Renault on a two-year deal.
The Australian driver endured a horrific start to his stint in black and yellow — Ricciardo did not secure a single podium finish during a forgettable 2019 season, where he finished ninth in the drivers’ standings.
But things took a turn for Ricciardo and Renault after the coronavirus lockdown, during which the 31-year-old announced he would join McLaren in 2021.
Ricciardo finished in the top five during races in Britain, Belgium, France and Russia, before snaring a highly-anticipated podium at the Eifel Grand Prix on Sunday.
The West Australian now finds himself ahead of the Ferrari and Racing Point drivers, sitting comfortably in fourth position, one spot behind former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
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Although Renault’s Esteban Ocon hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success, the French team — which hasn’t finished in the top three since 2007 — is only six points behind third-placed Racing Point.
Third-placed Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates on the podium.Source:Getty Images
Ahead of next weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Ricciardo attributed Renault’s new-found success to car modifications.
“From the start of the year, it’s been a new car from last year in terms of it’s been a lot better,” Ricciardo said, as reported by motorsport.com.
“The rear of the car has picked up a lot of downforce, so that’s given us drivers confidence to nail the throttle and get off the corner better.
“It was around Silverstone, I think, we had a few updates and that really just felt like we were able to basically find a bit more ease in setting the car up and it wasn’t so hit-or-miss.
“Last year I felt we, at times, could be very fast or well outside the top 10. I think now we’re just able to sit in that sweet spot and obviously the performance is there.
“It’s proven now; we’ve done it on low downforce and high downforce circuits. So, yeah, I think it’s a good package and we should have confidence now for the remainder of the season.”
Daniel Ricciardo at the Eifel Grand Prix.Source:AFP
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Ocon is currently 12th in the drivers’ standings with 36 points, but sits ahead of four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.
The French driver believes Renault is now capable of registering strong results on any circuit in the calendar.
“It’s definitely giving us great confidence because, as you know, we were struggling in Barcelona and Budapest, on those high downforce settings,” Ocon said.
“We were back on those for the Nurburgring, and the car has been feeling great and feeling strong.
“It’s giving us great hope and obviously great confidence to continue the season like that.”
The Portuguese Grand Prix will commence on Monday morning AEDT, with lights out scheduled for 12:10am.
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