Daniel Ricciardo expects Renault to achieve good results more consistently after the summer break, and indeed insists that it has to in order to achieve podiums in 2020.
Ricciardo has had fluctuating fortunes particularly in recent grand prix weekends, with a fourth in qualifying in Canada an obvious highlight, before disappointments such as going “back (to) square one” in Austria and last weekend’s spectacular failure in Germany.
Ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian round, the last before the summer break, the West Australian said that performances so far had variously exceeded or fallen short of expectations.
Currently 11th in the drivers’ championship, he maintains that the Renault F1 Team must be better in the nine races which follow the break if it is to progress to a point where it can collect podiums next year.
“I don’t want to say ‘in line’ because obviously I hoped for more but I knew it wasn’t going to happen like this,” said Ricciardo when asked how his season to date had met his expectations upon signing with the Anglo-French operation.
“If I look at Canada, the qualifying, I actually say that exceeded probably some expectations in the first few races but then obviously some other races like Austria were lower than our expectations.
“We’ve bounced around in between everything really, but now, at this halfway point, I think we can say, ‘Alright, we need to do better if we want to be on target for podiums in 2020’.
“We need to start making bigger steps for the second half of the year, so up until now, let’s say I’m somewhere in the middle with expectation, but I would now expect the second half of the season to have some more regular top six finishes or something.
“If we stay where we are now ‘til the end of the season, then that’s lower than what we expect.”
Renault is still rebuilding its factory team from the Lotus era and has not finished on the podium since returning as a constructor in 2016.
In a promising sign for the 30-year-old, Ricciardo sees increasing confidence from the squad, something which he said it lacked when he first arrived.
“I think from Day 1 when I walked in there were actually quite a few things already in place, more from an engineering point of view and the structure and personnel and meetings and analysis of everything,” he explained when asked how far Renault was from where it needs to be.
“The big thing I probably felt when I joined Red Bull was that they were already winners, and I noticed when I came into here (Renault), there was a bit of a lack of confidence because they hadn’t won in a long time.
“In the (Red Bull) team there’s like a certain level of confidence or pride, which I didn’t feel was at Red Bull’s level (at Renault), to be honest, for good reason.
“But we’re trying to get that going and I think Canada was a moment where I was like, ‘Actually, things have really changed’.
“We qualified fourth and everyone was happy but it wasn’t like we won the world title, it was like, ‘Alright, we belong here now’, so there was a real switch and I think that’s half the battle with anything.
“If they get that mentality, to really believe that they can make that step, then that’s kind of half your battle, so that’s a big thing that I’ve seen switch, which is positive.”
Spa-Francorchamps hosts the following grand prix from August 30-September 1, although Ricciardo advised that upgrades to the R.S.19 chassis will not come until “the first few” races after the summer break.
In the more immediate future, Practice 1 at Hungaroring starts tonight at 1900 AEST.