Renault has yet to score a podium finish since returning to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2016, so Daniel Ricciardo has a bet with managing director Cyril Abiteboul that would see the team boss getting a tattoo if the Australian secures a top-three result. Ricciardo is leaving Renault at the end of the year so only has seven races left to try and achieve the result, and he admits with Mercedes and Max Verstappen clearly ahead of the rest of the field, he’ll need some fortune on his side to win that bet.
“Not to be pessimistic but I think on pace we are just not quite there,” Ricciardo said. “Mercedes definitely not, and I think Max is driving very well and he is very comfortable with that car that he has underneath them.
“You need a bit of a reliability issue or a lap one debacle or something. Reliability would be a little nicer — I don’t wish a crash on anyone — so if one of them wants to have an issue when I’m running fourth at any point that’s cool, I’ll take it.
“The reality is that at best we can be the fourth-quickest car on track. We were fifth (in Russia). We had pace at the end and at times I was quicker than Sergio (Perez), but in the majority of the race particularly on the soft (tire) he had us covered by a little bit.”
Despite the podium looking like an unlikely target, Ricciardo reflects on the Sochi weekend as a more encouraging one for the team as it is putting itself at the front of the midfield battle at every circuit.
“I can certainly be more confident moving forward. Nico (Hulkenberg) did pretty well around here (Russia) last year, but it certainly was not our strongest track. Personally, it has never been my strongest track. So to put in a good result here personally but also have the car underneath me here, really from FP1 onwards, that says a lot.
“It gives me confidence now. Whether it is a top-five car I don’t know, but I think certainly we can realistically aim for a Q3 at every track no matter what the layout.”
Ricciardo actually attributes some of his strong Sochi performance to a penalty he picked up in Sunday’s race, when he ran slightly wide at Turn 2 when being allowed to overtake teammate Esteban Ocon, earning himself a five-second time penalty.
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“I took full responsibility for it. I just locked up and went wide. I was like ‘I am probably going to get a penalty here.’ So when Karel (Loos, race engineer) told me, I had already accepted it in my head, and thought the only way to eliminate the penalty is to go faster and build a gap to (Charles) Leclerc behind me.
“So it was actually quite good in hindsight. It lit a bit of a fire under my bum and I just got on with it. That was cool — I was proud to not let it get to me. I think we made a really good race of it after that.”