Daniel Ricciardo is excited by the close midfield battle in which he and his Renault Formula 1 Team currently finds themselves.
The Australian narrowly missed out on a podium at the Tuscan Grand Prix last time out, the third time in 2020 that he’s finished in fourth place.
After a somewhat hit and miss start to the season, Renault’s form has improved and its performances become more consistent in recent races.
That upturn was highlighted by Ricciardo’s performance in Mugello, a circuit where the team was not expecting to excel.
Heading into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, the 31-year-old is aware that things remain tight.
“We want to continue the strong run and score well this weekend,” Ricciardo said.
“We’re in a really tight midfield fight with a number of teams with one or two tenths either way the difference between the second row of the grid or ending outside the top 10.
“That challenge is exciting, it means we have to find everything from within the car and make it work.
“We had two fourth places from the last triple header, the target remains to take those big points to keep in the championship fight.”
This weekend’s race will mark the first time in 2020 that a significant crowd has been allowed to attend.
A tightly restricted number of spectators were allowed at the Tuscan Grand Prix, but a crowd of 30,000 is anticipated in Sochi.
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Russia again this weekend.,” said Ricciardo’s Renault team-mate, Esteban Ocon.
“It’s been quite special there and I’ve always had a warm welcome from the Russian fans.
“There are some fans this year as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing the atmosphere back again.
“Overall, that’s very positive.
“We think the car is going to be competitive there, and we’ll do our best preparing and make sure we back it up when it matters.”
The Renault has shown itself to be competitive in low downforce configuration, while in Mugello the squad took a step forward with a higher drag setup.
Sochi is somewhat of a Jekyl and Hyde venue, with the fast opening to the lap contrasted by a sequence of 90 degree corners to end it.
“The first two sectors at Sochi consist mainly of medium speed corners, although there is the long, fast flat-out Turn 3, which is full throttle in qualifying but hard on the tyres,” explained Ciaron Pilbeam, Renault’s Chief Race Engineer.
“The last sector has a series of slower, more closely spaced corners, where the rear tyres can overheat, even in qualifying.
“There are some kerbs at different places around the track and an unusual track profile in Turn 15, and a compliant setup can help with these aspects of the track.”
Lewis Hamilton won last year’s Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes, after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed pole.
Ricciardo failed to finish the race while Nico Hulkenberg piloted the sister Renault to 10th.
Track action for the weekend gets underway at 18:00 AEST on Friday ahead of qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday evening.