Renault enjoyed their first Q3 appearance of 2019 at the Chinese Grand Prix, and a double one at that, with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg set to start Sunday’s race in seventh and eighth. And for a team that have shown midfield-leading pace consistently in 2019 but only managed to score once, it was a welcome boost to squad morale.
Ricciardo started his weekend in Shanghai strongly, going sixth in Free Practice 1 before Hulkenberg improved to P5 in FP2. Qualifying then saw both cars consistently feature in the top 10 across the first two segments, with Ricciardo pipping his team mate by just four-thousandths of a second in Q3 as the team locked out the fourth row of the grid.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction for us as a team,” said Ricciardo. “I’m happy for the team. They seemed excited on the radio, so yeah, good day.”
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Daniel Ricciardo: A smoother weekend and a great result
Hulkenberg seemed similarly satisfied with his day’s work – and was even left ruing not having picked off the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, who qualified just 0.032s ahead of the German...
“I think so,” said Hulkenberg when asked whether he felt Renault’s pace had been representative. “Maybe one Red Bull was vulnerable this weekend, it looked like, but certainly the top six cars are still a little bit too far ahead. But from that point of view, a good team result, good effort.”
Far from being one-lap wonders, Hulkenberg also predicted a strong performance from the Renaults in the race – while with both of the R.S.19s starting on softs compared to five out of the top six ahead of them starting on mediums, Ricciardo was looking to get in amongst the front-runners early on.
“I think the medium over the stint will definitely be better,” he said, “but you give away quite a bit of start performance, maybe a grid [spot’s worth of time]. Maybe the first lap’s going to be fun.
“[It] could be pretty interesting. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but our starts have been strong, we’ve got the better tyre and yeah, could be interesting…”
Check out Nico Hulkenberg's lightning start in Bahrain