'Everyone else found a big step' – Ricciardo on how P4 in practice turned into P13 in qualifying
Renault looked almost nailed on to secure a top 10 position on the grid after stellar showings in Friday and Saturday practice in Spain. But in the end neither Esteban Ocon nor Daniel Ricciardo made it to Q3 in qualifying – which Ricciardo could only reason was down to other teams having made a significant jump in performance.
The Australian qualified a brilliant fifth in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, finished fourth in Spanish GP FP2 and 10th in FP3 only to end up 13th on the grid for the race. So did Renault's promising short-run pace just vanish into thin air?
“I don’t think we lost anything; I think everyone else found another step today,” replied Ricciardo. “The car was pretty decent, there’s always a few things you want to get out of it, so it wasn’t perfect. But, to be honest, yesterday wasn’t perfect either. I think everyone else just found a bigger step today.
“Thirteenth is not great on paper – it could’ve been a lot better – we’ll try to make something happen tomorrow.”
With what happened in FP3, the car was badly damaged and in less than two hours they put it back together – fantastic effort
However, passing other cars isn’t so easy at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where Renault will likely have to rely on a smarter strategy than their rivals. Perhaps, starting on new tyres (both drivers having been eliminated in Q2) will work to their benefit over the Top 10 on the grid.
“It is hard to overtake,” reiterated Ricciardo. "When the times are so close you need, normally, a big speed advantage to do some overtaking here. So, strategy, we’re going to have to rely on that. Obviously, I’ll do what I can to overtake, but I think strategy’s our best bet of making bigger gains tomorrow,” he concluded.
Ocon, who crashed out of FP3 in a bizarre accident, only for Renault’s mechanics to pull off a spectacularly fast repair job to get the Frenchman going in qualifying, added that his crash wasn’t the reason for a P15 starting position.
“I will start on a positive note: the guys [in the team] have been incredible,” began Ocon. “With what happened in FP3, the car was badly damaged and in less than two hours they put it back together – fantastic effort. Hats off.
“In FP3 it was a bad incident for sure, but that’s not the cause why we are out in Q2 today."
Ricciardo, incidentally, started 13th for Renault at Catalunya last year, but he’s got previous in Spain, having taken a podium in the 2017 race (for Red Bull) while Ocon finished fifth there (for Force India). Both will be hoping for repeats of that form in the race.