RACE DEBRIEF

    Impressing at their home Grand Prix was an obvious goal for Renault when they arrived at Paul Ricard for round eight of the 2019 season. And off the back of his sterling qualifying performance in Canada that saw him start from P4 on the grid, Daniel Ricciardo once again gave the Regie something to smile about after securing his third straight Q3 appearance, and qualifying P8.

    Ricciardo’s performance was doubly impressive given that he, along with rivals McLaren, as well as Ferrari and Mercedes and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, managed to make it through Q2 on the medium tyre, meaning he’ll start the race on that preferable race rubber. But the Australian revealed that the call to run the tyre in Q2 had left him slightly nervous…

    “In Q2 I made a mistake on the first run,” said Ricciardo. “I had a few moments, had to abort my first run in Q2 and then [my engineers] were like ‘we’re putting the medium on’.

    “I hadn’t used that tyre at all this weekend, but obviously they knew something I didn’t, so I just had to put that in there, and that was a good lap, that got me in Q3, and I think eighth was where we were at.”

    2019 French GP

    Maybe McLaren can tow me towards the front with them and we’ll have a good race

    Daniel Ricciardo

    While Ricciardo’s qualifying had been a boon for Renault on home turf – despite a tense moment post-session where he avoided a penalty for blocking the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in Q1 – the team did have the mild embarrassment of playing second fiddle to customer team McLaren, with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz ending up fifth and sixth, with Norris’s time a full half second quicker than Ricciardo’s. And while not ideal, Ricciardo was at least planning to use the McLarens’s extra pace to his advantage on race day.

    “We’re all on mediums, the top eight, so it will be interesting,” said Ricciardo. “If McLaren have the race pace that they have one lap, they could target a few of the guys in front. I’ll obviously target them, but maybe they can just tow me towards the front with them and [we’ll] have a good race.”

    READ MORE: Norris delights in P5 as McLaren net best qualifying result since 2014

    Ricciardo at least had the advantage of a new Spec B internal combustion engine in France, while team mate Nico Hulkenberg had to make do with his old power unit so as to avoid taking a grid penalty at Renault’s home race. And while Hulkenberg believed that the upgrade would have been sufficient to put him into Q3 along with Ricciardo, the German – who missed out on a spot in the final qualifying segment by 0.123s – admitted that he’d not had a perfect qualifying run.

    “Small margins,” he replied, when asked to explain what had made the difference. “Unfortunately I lost the second lap of the second Q2 run on the medium tyre going into Turn 8 – I just locked up the rear quite aggressively instantly and couldn’t make the corner. That wasn’t going to plan, and then it was just not enough.

    “It just didn’t go perfectly smooth and hence no top 10… [but the upgrade] in itself would have put us well through.”

    Renault will now look to build upon their best race performance of the season last time out in Canada, where the team scored their first double-points finish of the year to close them to within two points of McLaren in the constructors’ standings.

    Nico Hulkenberg: 'Small margins' cost us in Q2