RACE DEBRIEF

    The 2019 Austrian Grand Prix was not a happy one for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, as he started and finished the race in P12. But 2020 was already looking brighter for the Australian, after he ended Friday’s second practice session a strong P5, and seemingly very encouraged by the performance of his Renault R.S.20.

    Renault confirmed ahead of the race that they would bring a triple upgrade to the Red Bull Ring, a track at which Ricciardo and team mate Esteban Ocon tested two weeks ago. And despite still feeling his way with the new car and new parts, the early signs for Ricciardo were positive.

    “Good vibes in there,” was Ricciardo's summary at the end of Friday. “I felt like the first lap was kind of 'on'. It was a good day. We were fast.

    “After driving F1 for a few years, you know pretty soon when something feels good, and I felt pretty soon that there were improvements, basically in the rear. You just get on power and you can feel it just squats and sits and it’s got grip, so I think it’s all been pretty productive.”

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    Daniel Ricciardo: 'You know pretty soon when things feel good'

    Asked whether he felt the package would be enough to give him a shot at Q3, having missed out last year, Ricciardo replied: “That’s the plan. If today’s an indication, I definitely expect that from us tomorrow. I’m sure things will tighten up and whatever but that’s what we’re going to do.

    “Low fuel, it was strong,” added Ricciardo, who finished his Friday with a best time of 1m 04.972s, compared to his 2019 qualifying lap of 1m 04.790s. “To be in the top five’s nice, it‘s a good start. But I think even take the timing board away, the car did feel good, so that’s encouraging in itself.

    “It was nice, to get into the 1m 04s. I think pole [in 2019] was 1m 03s but I think we qualified in a 1m 04s, so already to be on that on day one was nice. Neck feels good, body feels good. I’m just really, really happy to be here!”

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    Ocon said being back in a Grand Prix weekend was "special"

    It was also a big day for Ocon, as he participated in his first practice session since the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. And although he admitted that he still needed to find some more one-lap pace, after finishing FP2 in P11, 0.443s adrift of Ricciardo, the significance of the day was not lost on the Frenchman.

    “It definitely felt special,” said Ocon on Friday evening. “Very happy to be back in a Grand Prix session. Testing is good… but being in a Grand prix is for sure different.

    “The car in the long run pace felt very good, very strong,” he added. “I think on my side at least I need to work a little bit more on the shorter runs, but that should all come naturally… The target is [to get] in the top 10, in Q3 – that’s definitely where we want to be and that’s what we’re going to push to achieve.”