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Formula 1

The Friday mistake that could undo Renault’s good work

by Matt Beer
3 min read

Renault recorded its best qualifying of the current Formula 1 season with Daniel Ricciardo’s fifth-fastest time, but the decision by the team to use of one of two sets of hard tyres during Friday practice could bite it in the race.

The other nine teams decided not to use their hard tyres at all on Friday. But Renault followed a more conventional programme with both Ricciardo and team-mate Esteban Ocon using one set of the hard compound.

Each driver has a standard allocation of two hard sets, three medium sets and eight soft sets for each event thanks to the unique demands of the compressed 2020 calendar. And with Pirelli allocating tyres one step softer for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix weekend, most teams decided to hold back the hard as it is expected to be the strongest race tyre.

This weekend’s hard compound is the C2, which was the medium for last weekend’s British Grand Prix. Teams are determined to avoid having to use the soft (C4), which lacks durability, with none of the top 10 in Q2 using it to set their fastest time.

Ricciardo admitted he was surprised when informed on Friday after practice that rival teams had universally avoiding using up a set of hards.

A two-stop strategy using two sets of mediums and a set of hards is easy to achieve with the expected wear rates, but Ricciardo did admit to concerns about the potential performance disadvantage given the mediums – last weekend’s softs – will require significant management.

Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 2020

“Time will tell,” said Ricciardo when asked if the decision to use up a set of hards in Friday practice was a mistake.

“I was only aware of it yesterday [Friday] evening, I only realised then we were the only ones that put hard on. So I was asking a few more questions about that even though it was too late.

“I don’t want to sit here now and say we messed up, I don’t think that’s the case yet, but hopefully not. That isn’t what you want, losing a set in practice so early in the weekend but I think we’ll be OK.

“If it’s a two-stop, which looks likely, I guess it’s two mediums for us as opposed to two hards and on distance both of these compounds do an easy two-stop.

“It’s really then just, is the medium competitive to the hard, because we know from last week the hard’s a good tyre here. So yeah, we’ll see.”

Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 2020

Despite the likely tyre disadvantage, Renault sporting director Alan Permane believes it will be possible to convert qualifying pace into a strong result in the race.

Renault showed strong race pace at Silverstone last weekend, with Ricciardo coming close to catching Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari for third late on.

While Esteban Ocon will start 14th having set the 11th-fastest time in qualifying then been hit with a three-place grid penalty for impeding George Russell in Q1, Permane hopes Ricciardo can take the fight to Racing Point’s Nico Hulkenberg and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who start ahead.

“I think we’re in with a fighting chance of a very decent result tomorrow,” said Permane.

“Hulkenberg’s super impressive in that Racing Point but they weren’t quite as strong in the race last week and typically we’re a little bit stronger in the race than we are in qualifying.

“We know we have been working on our single-lap pace and I think there’s no doubt that we’ve improved that certainly with Daniel. But we’re decent in the race.

“So I’d like to think we can give them a very good race tomorrow, both the Racing Points and the Red Bull.”

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