Daniel Ricciardo says his first points for Renault came as a result of his growing confidence with the car during a smooth weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix.
After moving from Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, Ricciardo has found life at Renault tricky so far, retiring in Australia after suffering damage at the start and then suffering a reliability problem in Bahrain when trying to hold on to a top 10 position. But he looked more at home in China, pipping teammate Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying and finished seventh in the race, and says the trouble-free weekend was important for his own development.
“It always helps when P1 goes smooth and sometimes I don’t know if that is luck or good preparation pre-race,” Ricciardo said. “But the set-up was there and we didn’t really have to change too much through the weekend. I felt like I could just build on myself, as opposed to learning the car by changing this and that. Some of those things we learned from the test in Bahrain – hanging back for that was positive.
“It feels good. Probably just for my guys in the garage, as well – we hadn’t seen a checkered flag yet. So for them, a couple of high-fives going around. So it is good that they can fly home with a smile on their face.”
In Bahrain, Ricciardo had struggled to make a one-stop strategy work, to the point that there was a real chance he’d have dropped out of the top 10 even without his reliability issue. But the Australian says the progress he is making is exemplified by his ability to pull off the same strategy in China.
“I’m happy that we made the one stop work. Considering in Bahrain we tried it and it didn’t work out for us, I am happy that we made it work. It was not easy, (Sergio) Perez was really quick, he pushed me in the whole race.
“I was trying to manage the gap, but then he was coming so I just had to go. Towards the end it was getting a bit tricky but he was also suffering, so it didn’t make it too tense over the last few laps.”
Having just managed to keep the Racing Point at bay, Ricciardo admits the pace shown by other midfield teams shows how much Renault still has to do.
“I was a bit surprised by Perez’s pace in the race,” he said. “Ideally, we want to stretch the gap to the others. But he had a really strong one. There are still some areas we can improve, but generally speaking, if we can put the weekend together, we should be at the front of the group.”