RACE DEBRIEF

    On paper, Renault’s Friday in Suzuka was a disaster, the team ending the second practice session with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg in P17 and P18 respectively. But according to Ricciardo, those results don’t tell the full story of his team’s Japanese pace.

    Renault arrived in Suzuka with a new front wing, designed to give the drivers more downforce around the classic track as they seek to close the gap to fourth-placed rivals McLarens. But with neither Ricciardo nor Hulkenberg troubling the top 10 in either of Friday’s sessions – as McLaren’s Carlos Sainz ended up P7 and ‘best of the rest’ in both FP1 and FP2 – it clearly wasn’t the day Renault had planned on.

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    We’re better than what the timesheets say, and I don’t think we’re too far off from where we want to be

    Daniel Ricciardo

    “It was a tough Friday for us,” said Hulkenberg. “We made some changes between sessions that seemed to help. We had some balance problems with a lack of grip, especially in Sector 1, but worked through it to end the day happier.

    "The times aren’t strictly representative as we ran out of sync with the others. It’s a day off tomorrow with the typhoon coming in, but we will look at everything in detail and be ready to go straight away on Sunday.”

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    Renault’s poor Friday form could have major ramifications should qualifying – currently set to be held on Sunday morning, as Suzuka battens down the hatches on Saturday against the approaching Typhoon Hagibis – be cancelled altogether.

    That eventuality would mean that P17 and P18 became the Renault pair’s grid positions – but even if that were to happen, Ricciardo is nonetheless predicting strong race pace from the team on Sunday.

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    “Unfortunately, both low-fuel laps were compromised with traffic,” said the Australian, after he ended up over two seconds off the ultimate pace in FP2 – and 0.8s off Sainz – with Hulkenberg nearly half a second further back.

    “We’re better than what the timesheets say, and I don’t think we’re too far off from where we want to be. Hopefully we can have a good qualifying and then be in a better position to race on Sunday.”

    Renault will now need to pull something special out of the bag at Suzuka on Sunday if they’re to make a dent in the 33-point gap to McLaren in the constructors’ standings – with just five races left to run this season for the team to try and emulate their fourth-place finish from 2018.

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