It took fourteen races into his tenure with Renault, but Daniel Ricciardo finally showed the potential of a successful partnership with his new team. Ricciardo did not receive much attention during the race, and rightfully so. The battle up front between Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton was tense. Thanks in part to Sebastian Vettel’s spin, Ricciardo earned his season best finish of fourth as Renault moved 21 points closer to McLaren for fourth in the Constructor Standings.
The Italian Grand Prix was set up perfectly for Renault. Following an engine change for Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg vaulted themselves to 5th and 6th on the starting grid. It was an impressive qualifying effort magnifying the improvements the French constructor has made with its pace back at the factory. Although Monza is undoubtedly an outlier when it comes to track demands, Ricciardo can finally start to feel the progress being made.
Nothing should be taken away from Nico Hulkenberg’s performance as well. Even though Hulkenberg noted that he had a difficult first stint in the race and was subsequently passed by Ricciardo, the German driver secured 10 points in route to his best finish of the season.
Ricciardo, however, bounced back in a big way following three consecutive finishes outside the points including a retirement at the Hockenheimring. More than anything, Sunday’s superb effort for Ricciardo and Hulkenberg will instill a massive sense of confidence heading into the final seven races.
Ricciardo was quick to credit the team back in Viry, France for their work in improving the cars’ pace at low-downforce circuits, which was an area the team has struggled in over the years.
“This year [the team in Viry] made big gains with the engine and its a statement getting that kind of result here in Monza. So very proud for them and happy for them. They should be proud of themselves, and I think they deserve a glass of champagne tonight.”
There have been some questions surrounding Renault’s investment in the team, which is costing close to a billion dollars, according to Autosport. The lack of performances during the course of this season is inexcusable and well short of the team’s expectations. The results of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg may finally be the turning point of the season, and it has no choice but to be the case.
Renault need to get the best out of the car as the season continues to wind down. There is little reason to believe that changes won’t occur should the team fall short of a fourth place finish in the Constructor Standings. The recent announcement of Renault signing Esteban Ocon for the 2020 season only compounds the pressure to improve in the lead up to Abu Dhabi.
In Ocon and Ricciardo, Renault will arguably have one of the most talented pairings on the grid. Ocon’s presence points towards a continued effort to compete in the future.
Daniel Ricciardo left Aston Martin Red Bull Racing because he believed that his best chance to win a title was to move to Renault. He wanted to be a number one driver again with the ultimate goal of competing against the top teams in the 2021.
There is still a ways to go before Renault can claim fourth place. McLaren’s poor weekend was the result of Carlos Sainz’s loose right front wheel leading to an early retirement. The Spaniard was in a points paying position at the time and could have been a threat to Renault later in the race. Moving forward, McLaren, who are using Renault powered engines, will continue to take the fight to their engine provider.
Formula 1 is now on the move to the high downforce street circuit of Marina Bay. Singapore’s rough and tight layout is the antithesis of Monza’s smooth surface and long straights. Teams will be focused on an entirely different package, but Renault will be striving to carry the confidence gained at Monza over to Singapore in two weeks time.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that Renault can hunt down McLaren over the coming races?
Photo Credit-Unsplash: Puk Patrick He