Seventh on the grid for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix is not what Daniel Ricciardo and Renault had expected heading into qualifying.
Following a strong showing at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend, Renault was expected to mount a serious challenge this weekend.
Ricciardo appeared to demonstrate that potential on Friday when he recorded a time that would have seen him third fastest for the day, had it not been deleted as a result of a track limits violation.
Qualifying, however, did not go to plan and Ricciardo will line up seventh on the grid while team-mate Esteban Ocon will start out of 12th.
“I think coming into the session for sure we hoped and expected a bit more but once Q1 started I was, I think we kind of readjusted probably our expectations,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports F1.
“Maybe we lost a tenth and everyone found a tenth.
“Even Q2 was tight and then on that last lap in Q2 I went off.
“I thought I was done, but the first lap held on and then in the end Q3 lap was decent.”
Ricciardo looked to run the session without trying to use the slipstream of Ocon.
Teams often look to run their cars line astern at Monza, a low downforce circuit where a slipstream can shave as much as four tenths off a lap time.
The practice is something of a black art with little margin for error; too close to the car in front and the loss in downforce counters the gains made on the straights.
At the crucial moment in Qualifying 2, Ricciardo opted not to chase a slipstream and instead push his own air only for a mistake to scupper his chances and leave him vulnerable.
“The Q2 lap when I went off I was first on track and I expected to lose a lot more down the straight not having a tow, but I lost only a small, small margin which was surprising,” he reasoned.
“Sometimes the tow can be a bit overrated.
“It can mess you up a little bit in the second sector; I messed up without a tow.”
A traffic jam materialised at the Parabolica late in Qualifying 1 as drivers looked for track position and a slipstream.
That caught out Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen, the pair being referred to the stewards after nearly making contact late in the opening phase of the session.
It was subsequently found that no further action needed to be taken, as the incident arose as a result of circumstances ahead of the pair on track.
However, it served to highlight the difficulties of finding the ideal mix of track position and a slipstream.
“If you’re too slow in the last corner trying to create a gap then your tyres might be a bit cooler,” Ricciardo suggested about chasing a slipstream for a flying lap.
“That might mess with your head braking for Turn 1.
“It’s just another variable, sometimes it’s a bit of a nuisance.
“We made it, kind of in the end. I look at the gaps and obviously I’m not sure the team’s jumping around after quali but confident we can give them a bit more to cheer for tomorrow.
“I think it’s still a one stop race,” he added.
“I think we will be able to push relatively hard through the race.
“So a little bit of management, but nothing crazy. I don’t think you’ll see like Silverstone or any of that stuff.”
The Italian Grand Prix gets underway from 23:10 AEST tonight.