Renault Formula 1 duo Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo think the “strange things” it encountered in Portugal will help in getting to the bottom of the difficulties it faced.
After a recent run of good form, Renault endured a step back in pace at Portimao as it found itself unable to match main rivals Racing Point and McLaren.
While both drivers suspect the slippery track surface was a factor, they feel that there are some big mysteries from the weekend that need answering – including why Ocon could not benefit from a late switch to soft tyres in the race.
For having looked in a good position to challenge the cars ahead, Ocon found himself unable to close in and came home eighth, just ahead of Ricciardo.
“The team was hoping for me to get some performance in, to get some move going for the cars in front, but that was not the case,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns about this weekend, a lot of strange things that we need to understand. But it’s been very useful and good knowledge.”
Ricciardo, who had finished on the podium in the previous race at the Nurburgring, reckoned that Portugal had perhaps exposed a weakness the team still has in high downforce configuration.
“I still believe that our weakness lies in real maximum downforce,” he explained. “Maybe not everyone had it in Nurburgring, and so if everyone’s kind of put it on here, and on to that you’ve got a lower grip track surface, then downforce plays an even bigger part
“So maybe that then kind of put us back to maybe where we are with this style of wing. That’s probably all I would say.
“It’s maybe just a much more slippery track. I know the Nurburgring was cold, but actually once the tyre was warm, the grip on the circuit was actually high. Here it was never high.”
Ocon said that while the downforce level was the same as the Nurburgring, the car never felt as well balanced all weekend as it had been in the Eifel GP.
“This is something we still need to analyse,” he said. “It is true that it’s more or less the same configuration as Nurburgring, but as soon as we put the car down on the track, it was not as good. We were struggling a lot more with the rear end and we were struggling with the balance basically.
“We need to analyse that for it not to happen over the rest of the season. It’s been I would say probably the toughest balance we had since Barcelona. So I think it’s good knowledge for us and if we understand that, I think we’re going to be stronger in these kind of tracks.”
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