Former-Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo has revealed the early-season pace of the R.S.20 caught the team off guard after a disappointing pre-season campaign.
Renault and Ricciardo entered 2020 with the ambition to stand on the podium at least once in the year, ending a five-year spell without silverware for the Enstone-based team and a nine-year stint between drinks for Renault as a manufacturer.
Ricciardo conceded that, after the end of the pre-season Barcelona test, he was not entirely convinced about the realism of the target but, when returning to the track several months later in Austria, his belief returned.
Speaking of the progress made across his two-years with Renault, Ricciardo said: “I think enough progress to pleasantly surprise all of us – us drivers and the team.
"Of course you have objectives and targets and it was the objective to be on the podium this year but sometimes you do set the bar a little higher and I’m not sure we were all convinced deep down that we would make a big enough step to do it but we have.
“It’s one of those nice feelings. It wasn’t quite there in winter testing. It felt better but I wasn’t convinced it was good enough to really make that massive step but then in Austria, after all that lockdown and a few more updates on the car, I remember the first lap in it I was like ‘oh yeah, now it’s actually given me quite a bit’.
"We really ironed out quite a few weaknesses that we had last year and even in testing. So that was the moment and sometimes you literally need one or two laps and you’re like ‘yeah, this car’s going to do alright’ and you just know.”
Ricciardo finished fifth in the standings with Renault fifth in the constructors' championship. Despite the French manufacturer only matching its 2019 position, its tally of 181 points was a marked improvement on the 91 scored in the previous year.
Esteban Ocon added a podium finish of his own to the Australian's two in the Sakhir Grand Prix, but Ricciardo claims it was the consistency of Renault across the year that impressed him most.
“I think that’s been the nicest thing, the actual consistency we’ve had this year from not only performance but also reliability," he explained.
“It was hard to string a lot of good races together last year whether it was some reliability or we were just strong on particular tracks, obviously this year we’ve just been much more well rounded everywhere.
“I think looking back, obviously, there are the highs of the podiums but as a whole, the consistency in the top ten and Q3s has been the biggest one.”
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