Daniel Ricciardo believes Renault’s ability to get more out of its car in race trim than qualifying is a sign that it has a tougher car to set up than McLaren.
McLaren has enjoyed an advantage for much of the season over the works team that supplies its power unit, with its lead in the constructors’ championship currently 38 points with two rounds remaining. On Saturday, it locked out the fourth row with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris — with Sainz over half a second quicker than Ricciardo — but in the race Ricciardo passed both drivers and held on to finish sixth ahead of Norris.
“Splitting it between qualifying and the race, I do feel like if I look at McLaren, they seem to be able to get the lap time out of the car a bit easier,” Ricciardo said. “That window we talk of seems slightly wider for them. That is why in qualifying we are not always able to extract the most out of it because it is easier for us to make a mistake or not to get the setup spot on.
“But then in the race, once the pace comes off and you are not on the limit of the tire… our window expands naturally for the race, and that is why we are able to come back a little bit towards them.
“It is (encouraging). We know a few reasons why. Even Friday I was not strong on the long runs. So to come out and be the best of the rest and to beat the McLarens, even when I think the two stop was the faster race in the end, that is really encouraging. So we will try and figure out why and how.”
Ricciardo referenced a two-stop strategy as Norris opted to pit for a second time when stuck behind the Renault and duly closed in rapidly to cross the line just 0.3s adrift at the end of the race.
“The start was fun; the first lap was cool. I went back and forth a bit with Lando. Initially got him, he got me back and then I got him a few laps later. Then he could see that his one stop was not going to work behind me, so they called him in for a two. Actually just before that (Alex) Albon had boxed for a two and I know that he has more pace with the Red Bull but he came back through us so quickly.
“So when I knew that Lando had pitted for a two stop, I feared that the last few laps of the race were going to be not too fun. He got on my gearbox in the last corner. But we held him off. One more lap and the two stop had us. It was nice to be sixth and beat them and get more points. Two good weekends in a row now — it is nice.”