Daniel Ricciardo says his Renault team’s decision to focus on long runs in practice has masked the outfit’s true potential for the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Ricciardo ended FP1 in 14th place before dropping to 17th in FP2.
With Saturday’s running at Suzuka cancelled and qualifying postponed until Sunday morning, the 30-year-old says the schedule change shifted the team’s approach on Friday.
“We focused on getting in as much running as possible today knowing tomorrow is off,” Ricciardo said.
“We improved the car in the afternoon after a difficult morning and found some decent progress.
“We decided to complete some long runs and then short runs towards the end of the afternoon.”
With FP2 times potentially setting the grid for the race, Renault’s attempts at quicker times were thwarted by traffic.
“Unfortunately, both low fuel laps were compromised with traffic – we’re better than what the timesheets say – and I don’t think we’re too far off from where we want to be,” Ricciardo added.
“Hopefully we can have a good qualifying and then be in a better position to race on Sunday.”
Renault has introduced a new front wing for the weekend, and despite the condensed program, ran three tyre compounds during Friday’s running.
“Our pace on the long runs is actually looking pretty good, but we weren’t able to show our speed on the low fuel runs at the end of the session,” said Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director.
“We got stuck in traffic around others who were on long runs, so ended up monkeying around a little bit. We ran the new front wing, which did improve the handling when we found the right balance and set-up.
“With the revised weekend schedule, we have to put it all together at the right moment, but leave some flexibility to adapt to whatever the weather throws at us.”
Ricciardo made headlines ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, with news he had settled a dispute with his former manager.
The Australia secured his best result of the season at the Italian Grand Prix with fourth place in September and currently sits 10th in the points standings.