Renault’s podium at last weekend’s Eifel Grand Prix was proof for Daniel Ricciardo that the Enstone outfit has made clear progress in 2020.
Ricciardo steered his R.S.20 to a surprise third in Sunday’s race at the Nurburgring following the retirement of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, marking the Australian’s first visit to the podium since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.
Critically, it was the first top three result for the Enstone squad since Romain Grosjean finished third, albeit under the Lotus name and with Mercedes power, in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.
It was also Renault’s first podium since the French marque’s return to the sport as a constructor back in 2016.
After a swathe of fourth-placed finishes in his time with Renault, Ricciardo explained that the Eifel Grand Prix podium suggested the package is no longer “hit-or-miss”.
“From the start of the year, it’s been a new car from last year in terms of it’s been a lot better,” said Ricciardo, who compared the Eifel podium to his very first.
“The rear of the car has picked up a lot of downforce, so that’s given us drivers confidence to nail the throttle and get off the corner better.
“It was around Silverstone I think we had a few updates and that really just felt like we were able to basically find a bit more ease in setting the car up and it wasn’t so hit-or-miss.
“Last year I felt we, at times, could be very fast or well outside the top 10. I think now we’re just able to sit in that sweet spot and obviously the performance is there.
“It’s proven now: we’ve done it on low downforce, high downforce circuits. So, yeah, I think it’s a good package and we should have confidence now for the remainder of the season.”
The result marked Renault’s first podium as a constructor since Malaysia 2011, but team boss Cyril Abiteboul admitted the car is not yet good enough for the podium “under absolutely normal circumstance”.
However, Abiteboul was pleased his team is in positions to deliver when their rivals falter.
“I think the timing is just a fact that the team has progressed,” Abiteboul said after the race.
“It’s very visible, since a few races. We understand the car better, the set-up works better.
“Frankly we were a bit worried here because this is the first time we were coming to a track that is extra high downforce and here also (the car) is working.
“Clearly our car is not good for a podium under absolutely normal circumstance, but what’s good is that when it happens, when there is a lot opportunity, (we are) able to nail it down.”
However, reliability issues struck Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Lando Norris in the race, with both Renault-powered cars retiring from the race.
Abiteboul conceded that the Ocon and Norris failures added to the tension of the race as Ricciardo chased silverware.
“I need to say a word in relation to Norris because it looks like it’s a product-related problem. You see that happening, you don’t like that, absolutely, whatever the colour of the car,” Abiteboul said.
“That just increases the pressure and the tension over 60 laps when you see that a good result is possible.
“Also on our side we had a couple of alerts… I think these conditions actually are extreme for the cars, we are not really used to that, so we have to look at that… the emotions were very high and the tension was very high.”
Ricciardo lies fourth in the standings ahead of the next race in Portugal across October 23-25.