Daniel Ricciardo admits Renault has work to do to become as competitive as it hopes this year, but is expecting bigger steps forward in the first part of the season.
Renault finished fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2018 and wants to at least match that performance this season while also targeting podium finishes. Ricciardo made the switch from Red Bull over the winter and says he has settled in well, but is aware of the work ahead.
“My first impressions, on a whole, have been positive and we’ll continue to learn more throughout these early races,” Ricciardo said. “It’s going to take some time to get used to everything, but that’s not unexpected.
“We’re realistic in our approach and we have work to do. We have a decent platform to build on now and we always strive for better. We’ve found some things during testing which we’ll dissect and see what we want to take forward, but our bigger steps will come during the next few months.”
As his home race – the Australian Grand Prix – starts the season this weekend, Ricciardo is expecting significant interest, but warns the Renault project is a long-term one.
“I know the Australian crowd will be out there supporting me as the sole home representative on the grid. Hopefully there will be a sea of yellow in the grandstands, and that will be really motivating. There’s going to be a lot of expectation and attention on us, but we’re remaining realistic with what we have set out to achieve.
“That doesn’t deter from the fact we’ll be giving it our best shot. The midfield will be close, but we’re chipping away towards closing the gap to the top. The first race is the first chapter on this journey and I’ll be pushing as hard as ever to ensure we do ourselves proud.”
Ricciardo’s new teammate Nico Hulkenberg is happy with Renault’s progress since last season, and says the arrival of the Australian should help both drivers’ performances
“Our main goal is to put ourselves in a better position than last year,” Hulkenberg said. “We want to reward ourselves with more points and better results. A lot of hard work has gone into this and we head to Melbourne as prepared as we can be, and I’m quite happy with that.
“I have a new teammate who brings a positive challenge. We’ll bring out the best from each other. He’s a quality driver and we’ll test each other and that’s a challenge I look forward to taking on.”